Detailed Pedia

Sound+Vision Tour

Sound+Vision Tour
Tour by David Bowie
Sound+Vision Tour 1990.jpg
A Sound+Vision Tour Promotional Image
David Bowie in silhouette
Associated albumSound+Vision
Start date4 March 1990
End date29 September 1990
No. of shows7 in North America
23 in Europe
7 in North America
2 in Asia
40 in North America
24 in Europe
6 in South America
108 Total
David Bowie concert chronology
Tin Machine tour chronology
Tin Machine Tour
It's My Life Tour

The Sound+Vision Tour was a 1990 concert tour by English musician David Bowie that was billed as a greatest hits tour in which Bowie would retire his back catalogue of hit songs from live performance. The tour opened at the Colisée de Québec in Quebec City, Canada on 4 March 1990 before reaching its conclusion at the River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 29 September 1990, spanning five continents in seven months. The concert tour surpassed Bowie's previous Serious Moonlight (1983) and Glass Spider (1987) tours' statistics by visiting 27 countries with 108 performances.

Édouard Lock of La La La Human Steps co-conceived and was artistic director for this tour.

Tour history

Bowie's previous Glass Spider Tour and two most recent albums (Tonight (1984) and Never Let Me Down (1987)) had all been critically dismissed, and Bowie was looking for a way to rejuvenate himself artistically.[1] To this end, Bowie wanted to avoid having to play his old hits live forever, and used the release of the Sound + Vision box set as the impetus for a tour, despite having no new material recorded.[2][3][4] Bowie took a break from his band Tin Machine for "Sound+Vision", telling the band he was contractually obligated to do the tour. He invited fellow Tin Machine guitarist Reeves Gabrels to tour with him, but Gabrels declined, and instead suggested Adrian Belew, with whom both Gabrels and Bowie had worked previously. Gabrels called Belew and said “'I have this friend who is going on tour, and he needs a guitar player. He asked me and I can’t do it, but I thought you might want to do it,' and I put David on the phone."[5]

It was stated that Bowie would never perform these greatest hits on tour again.[6][7][8][9] Bowie said "knowing I won't ever have those songs to rely on again spurs me to keep doing new things, which is good for an artist,"[10] and later, "I have no intentions of parroting my own songs, which is what it ends up being after you've been doing it for 20 years. You can't do it with any more enthusiasm. I don't care who you are, you get to the point where you don't like singing the song anymore."[11]

Bowie looked forward to retiring his old hits, saying "It's time to put about 30 or 40 songs to bed and it's my intention that this will be the last time I'll ever do those songs completely, because if I want to make a break from what I've done up until now, I've got to make it concise and not have it as a habit to drop back into. It's so easy to kind of keep going on and saying, well, you can rely on those songs, you can rely on that to have a career or something, and I'm not sure I want that."[3]

He would state in another contemporary interview that "I want to finish off that old phase and start again. By the time I'm in my later forties, I will have built up a whole new repertoire."[4]

It has been noted that Bowie is "famous" for claiming retirement in the past, so many critics and observers did not fully believe Bowie when he said he would not play these songs again.[3][6][10][12][13]

Bowie spent the early few months of 1990 preparing for the tour in a rehearsal hall on Manhattan's west side.[3]

Song selection

David Bowie performing in Chile, 27 September 1990

It was announced that the set-list for any given performance of the tour would be partially determined by the most popular titles logged in a telephone poll[6] by calling the number 1-900-2-BOWIE-90.[2] Money earned from phone calls to the 1-900 number were donated to two charities, Save the Children and a Brixton charity.[14] Mail-in ballots were made available to vote by in territories where telephone technology was not available.[9]

Bowie did in fact build the tour's setlist from calls to the phone number from all over the world, saying "What I ended up doing was taking about seven or eight [songs] from [the calls in] England, another seven or eight from the rest of Europe and the rest I made up from America so it's a good sampling of what everybody wanted in all the continents."[2] The first shows of the tour held in March 1990 in Canada were performed before any telephone polls were completed, leading Bowie to guess at the list of songs the audience wanted to hear.[15]

In the US, the songs "Fame", "Let's Dance" and "Changes" topped the list of songs requested by fans, while in Europe the songs "Heroes" and "Blue Jean" were the leaders.[6]

The NME, in response to the telephone poll, ran a spoof campaign, Just Say Gnome, in an effort to have "The Laughing Gnome" included in the set-lists.[2][16] Bowie had considered playing "The Laughing Gnome" "in the style of The Velvets or something" until he found out the voting had been perpetrated by the music magazine.[2]

Set design

Édouard Lock (of La La La Human Steps) co-conceived and was artistic director for this tour.[10] Bowie had originally wanted La La La Human Steps to be involved in his previous Glass Spider Tour, but was unable to secure them due to scheduling conflicts.[2][3] Given the unfavorable attention that his previous solo tour drew, Bowie was keen to make sure the Sound+Vision Tour did things differently. He said, "It will be staged; there is no way I could ever consider really putting something on the stage that doesn't owe something to theatah (pronouncing 'theatre' in a thick British accent), but it won't be overtly theatre in as much as it won't be propped the same way. Going back to the way we worked towards the Station to Station show, which was basically a question of using a kind of Brechtian lighting pad and working areas and atmospheres of light, is very much the kind of feel it will have."[3] Bowie recruited Willie Williams to design the lighting for the tour, having worked with him on the preceding year's Tin Machine "It's My Life Tour".[17]

He added that this tour is "nowhere near as ambitious as Glass Spider in size, but qualitatively, in essence, I think it's as theatrical."[9]

In addition to the stark lighting and the backing 4-piece rock band, Bowie employed a new tool for this tour: a giant sixty-by-forty foot transparent gauze scrim.[15] The scrim would occasionally be lowered in front of or behind Bowie,[2] onto which images of Bowie and videos were projected.[6][7][10] Bowie described it as being "like a giant Javanese shadow puppet show at times."[2] Two large, round screens at each side of the stage also displayed the videos projected on the scrim.[15]

The set was constructed by 80 workers who traveled with the tour, with the help of local workers who were hired in each city. A single set took 8 trucks to move (with an additional 4 buses for the workers), and required 9 hours to set up and 4 hours to load out each night.[18]

Video recordings of La La La Human Steps' Louise Lecavalier performing dances in time to the music and images of Bowie singing, playing instruments, miming or otherwise performing to certain songs were projected on the scrim & screens during the show.[2][3] For some dates, such as the performance in Montreal on 6 March 1990, some of the dancers from La La La Human Steps danced live on stage to some of the songs.[15] Bowie was enthusiastic about the inclusion of the dancers on the tour: "You've never seen anything like them before. They're probably the leading avant-garde dance troupe in North America. Louise Lecavalier, their star, is like nothing else you've ever seen on stage. She's absolutely phenomenal. ... The dance troupe is unbelievable. It's where punk and ballet clash with each other."[19]

Live recordings

Bowie wanted to record the concert, something he hadn't always done before, saying "We're intending to film it for posterity; I should hope so. I've always regretted not having filmed things like the 'Diamond Dogs' show. We never filmed the 'Station to Station' show. Or the 'soul' show with Dave Sanborn and those guys. I have absolutely no footage of those things. It's terrible. ... It's infuriating."[10]

Despite this, no official recording of the show has been made available to the public in either audio or video form. A number of performances were filmed and recorded for television and radio broadcasts:

Recording date Location Broadcast by
16 May 1990 Tokyo Dome
5 August 1990 Milton Keynes Bowl BBC Radio 1
14 September 1990 Estádio José Alvalade RTP1
20 September 1990 Sambodromo de Rio – Rio de Janeiro Rede Globo
23 September 1990 Estadio de PalmeirasSão Paulo Radio Transamérica
27 September 1990 Rock in Chile Festival – Estadio Nacional de Chile

Contemporary reception and reviews

Rolling Stone described the 1990 summer concert season "a concert season to remember", and included the Sound+Vision Tour as one of its highlights. They said "Louise Lecavalier of Montreal's La La La Human Steps dance troupe provides avant-garde acrobatics, and several [musical] numbers are graced by stunning short films, including a clip for "Ashes to Ashes" that has to be seen to be believed. Otherwise, there are no pyrotechnics, no laser beams and, best of all, no glass spiders,"[7] the last a reference to Bowie's previous world tour. A review of an early show by Rolling Stone was positive, saying "Bowie proved able to reclaim virtually his entire diverse oeuvre – even those songs that now seem furthest from him – through sheer vocal power and charisma" and complaining only that "the band wasn't always equal to the challenge, demonstrating too much respect for the songs' recorded arrangements."[15] A review of the show's stop in Vancouver, BC said "Bowie hasn't sounded this good in years", praising the tour's focus on not only the songs, but on Bowie himself,[20] and a review of the show in Seattle called the visuals "a knockout" and praised Bowie as an innovator, only complaining that the music itself seemed "mechanical."[21]

While some shows on the North American tour did not sell out, such as in Seattle and some dates in Florida, overall the tour was well-attended. It sold out, often over multiple nights, in cities such as San Francisco, Sacramento, Philadelphia and Detroit.[22]

The UK show at Milton Keynes Bowl was reviewed negatively by Melody Maker magazine, who called parts of the performance "flat" and dismissed the song "Pretty Pink Rose" as "a tall heap of shite."[23]

Tour incidents

Mid-tour, Bowie, Erdal Kızılçay and guitarist Adrian Belew joined blues artist Buddy Guy in Chicago for a performance at the NAMM Expo '90, which celebrated Guy.[24]

A month later in Philadelphia, Bowie stopped his performance in the middle of the song "Young Americans" to speak out against music censorship, specifically due to the controversy over 2 Live Crew's album As Nasty As They Wanna Be, saying "I've been listening to the album by 2 Live Crew. It's not the best album that's ever been made, but when I heard they banned it, I went out and bought it. Freedom of thought, freedom of speech – it's one of the most important things we have."[25]

During the show in Modena, Bowie stopped his performance while in the middle of "Station to Station" and said onstage "Ok, I'm gonna have to pick some easier songs, or I'm never gonna get through half of these... Let's try Fame." then Bowie proceeded to take his guitar and throw it at the other side of the stage.[26] It is said that Bowie had a cold and he became frustrated that it was affecting his vocals.

Tour statistics

The tour opened at the Colisée de QuébecQuebec City[3] on 4 March 1990 before reaching its conclusion in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 29 September 1990, spanning five continents in seven months.[2][4] The concert tour surpassed the previous Serious Moonlight and Glass Spider Tour's statistics by visiting 27 countries with 108 performances. For the ten performances in the United Kingdom alone it was estimated the audience figure was 250,000[27] in total. The tour was estimated to have grossed $20M[28] (or roughly $39M today, adjusted for inflation).[29]

Tour legacy

Bowie felt that a burden had been lifted by retiring the old hits he felt he was forced to perform, and said "[Retiring my old hits on tour] was a very selfish thing to do, but it gave me an immense sense of freedom, to feel that I couldn't rely on any of those things. It's like I'm approaching it all from the ground up now, starting with 'Okay, we know what songs we needn't do anymore. What, of my past, did I really like?' You pick things that were really good songs, and you try to recontextualize them, by giving them current, contemporary rhythms. And we've been knocking around ideas like 'Shopping for Girls' from Tin Machine, 'Repetition' and 'Quicksand' from Hunky Dory. Certain songs that I probably haven't ever performed onstage. They're working shoulder to shoulder with the new material, and I'm starting to see continuity in the way that I work."[30]

Generally, most songs that Bowie performed on the tour were played live in years to come, with only a small number of songs from the Sound+Vision Tour set list truly being retired forever; the most notable songs never to be played live again were "Young Americans" and "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide".[31] Bowie only played "Space Oddity" on tour a single time afterwards,[32] although Bowie did perform the song three times on other occasions.[33][34][35] In future tours Bowie would in fact begin to play lesser-known songs, only occasionally punctuated by his well known older "hits", and bias towards playing material written after 1990.[36][37][38][39] After finishing the Sound+Vision tour, Bowie returned to his band Tin Machine for their second album.

Tour band

Bowie specifically chose a smaller band for the tour, saying in a contemporary interview that "It's a much smaller sound. It's not quite as orchestrated as any of the other tours. The plus of that is that there is a certain kind of drive and tightness that you get with that embryonic line-up, where everybody is totally reliant on the other two or three guys, so everybody gives a lot more."[9] There was some tension in the band during the tour, remembered musician Kızılçay, who recalled that Bowie "wasn't very happy,"[40] and that "[Bowie] was very stressed, especially in South America. He didn’t even come to the sound checks.[41] Keyboardist Rick Fox wasn't invested in the tour; he would occasionally eat dinner on stage, and on at least one occasion turned off his own keyboards and played his own songs while sampled parts of Bowie's songs were playing.[40]


This performance is from the Milton Keynes Bowl, Milton Keynes, England show at 5 August 1990.

  1. "Space Oddity"
  2. "Rebel Rebel"
  3. "Ashes to Ashes"
  4. "Fashion"
  5. "Life on Mars?"
  6. "Pretty Pink Rose"
  7. "Sound and Vision"
  8. "Blue Jean"
  9. "Let's Dance"
  10. "Stay"
  11. "Ziggy Stardust"
  12. "China Girl"
  13. "Station to Station"
  14. "Young Americans"
  15. "Suffragette City"
  16. "Fame"
  17. ""Heroes""
  18. "Changes"
  19. "The Jean Genie"
  20. "White Light/White Heat"
  21. "Modern Love"

Tour dates

Date City Country Venue Tickets sold / available Revenue
North America
4 March 1990 Quebec City Canada Colisée de Québec 15,000 / 15,756 $397,500
6 March 1990 Montreal Montreal Forum 16,235 / 19,000 $535,755
7 March 1990 Toronto Skydome 55,000 / 55,000 $1,229,008
10 March 1990 Winnipeg Winnipeg Arena 18,460 / 18,460 $486,328
12 March 1990 Edmonton Northlands Coliseum 13,000 / 13,000 $264,000
13 March 1990 Calgary Olympic Saddledome 18,000 / 22,000 $360,000
15 March 1990 Vancouver Pacific Coliseum 17,500 / 17,500 $420,000
19 March 1990 Birmingham England National Exhibition Centre 34,560 / 38,000 $978,589
20 March 1990
23 March 1990 Edinburgh Scotland Royal Highland Exhibition Centre 42,000 / 42,000 $924,000
24 March 1990
26 March 1990 London England Docklands Arena 43,560 / 45,000 $1,089,000
27 March 1990
28 March 1990
30 March 1990 Rotterdam Netherlands Rotterdam Ahoy 13,000 / 13,000
1 April 1990 Dortmund West Germany (Rescheduled) Westfalenhalle N/A N/A
2 April 1990 Paris France Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy 40,000 / 40,000
3 April 1990
5 April 1990 Frankfurt West Germany Festhalle Frankfurt N/A N/A
7 April 1990 Hamburg Alsterdorfer Sporthalle 7,000 / 7,000
8 April 1990 Berlin Deutschlandhalle 10,000 / 10,000
10 April 1990 Munich Olympiahalle 12,000 / 12,000
11 April 1990 Stuttgart Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle Unknown Unknown
13 April 1990 Milan Italy Palatrussardi
14 April 1990
17 April 1990 Rome Palaeur
18 April 1990 (Cancelled) Palaeur N/A N/A
20 April 1990 Brussels Belgium Forest National 16,000 / 16,000
21 April 1990
22 April 1990 Dortmund West Germany Westfalenhalle Unknown Unknown
North America[43]
27 April 1990 Miami United States Miami Arena 13,121 / 13,121 $338,388
29 April 1990 Pensacola Pensacola Civic Center 10,000 / 10,000 $210,000
1 May 1990 Orlando Orlando Arena 18,000 / 18,000 $378,000
4 May 1990 St. Petersburg Florida Suncoast Dome 40,000 / 50,000 $840,000
5 May 1990 Jacksonville Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum 8,760 / 10,125 $183,960
7 May 1990 Atlanta Omni Coliseum 10,912 / 12,781 $257,500
9 May 1990 Chapel Hill Dean Smith Center 17,500 / 21,750 $367,500
15 May 1990 Tokyo Japan Tokyo Dome 110,000 / 110,000 $2,310,000
16 May 1990
North America
20 May 1990 Vancouver Canada BC Place Stadium 46,560 / 55,000 $976,500
21 May 1990 Tacoma United States Tacoma Dome 23,000 / 23,000 $483,000
23 May 1990 Los Angeles Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena 12,756 / 12,756 $356,991
24 May 1990 Sacramento Cal Expo 13,961 / 13,961 $384,165
26 May 1990 Los Angeles Dodger Stadium 40,877 / 47,000 $1,117,086
28 May 1990 Mountain View Shoreline Amphitheatre 35,207 / 40,000 $862,515
29 May 1990
1 June 1990 Denver McNichols Sports Arena 35,800 / 35,800 $823,400
2 June 1990
4 June 1990 Dallas Starplex Amphitheater 11,538 / 20,000 $276,167
6 June 1990 Austin, Texas Frank Erwin Center 17,678 / 17,900 $618,730
7 June 1990 Houston Woodlands Pavilion 9,481 / 10,000 $215,877
9 June 1990 Kansas City Sandstone Amphitheater 18,000 / 18,000 $378,000
10 June 1990 St. Louis St. Louis Arena 8,975 / 18,000 $235,175
12 June 1990 Noblesville Deer Creek Music Center 10,100 / 18,000[44] $237,350
13 June 1990 Milwaukee Marcus Amphitheater 25,000 / 25,000 $600,000
15 June 1990 Chicago World Music Theatre 55,130 / 56,000 $1,543,640
16 June 1990
19 June 1990 Cleveland Richfield Coliseum 26,319 / 26,319 $657,975
20 June 1990
22 June 1990 Auburn Hills The Palace of Auburn Hills 39,225 / 39,900 $980,625
24 June 1990
25 June 1990
27 June 1990 Burgettstown Coca-Cola Star Lake Amphitheater 12,521 / 22,917[45] $375,630
30 June 1990 St. John's Canada Memorial Stadium 6,000 / 6,000 $126,000
2 July 1990 Moncton Moncton Coliseum 7,200 / 7,200 $187,200
4 July 1990 Toronto Canadian National Exhibition Stadium 73,000 / 74,500 $1,825,000
6 July 1990 Ottawa Ottawa Civic Centre 9,500 / 9,750 $199,500
7 July 1990 Saratoga Springs United States Saratoga Performing Arts Center 25,000 / 25,000 $700,000
9 July 1990 Philadelphia The Spectrum 74,000 / 74,000 $1,554,000
10 July 1990
12 July 1990
13 July 1990
16 July 1990 Uniondale Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum 14,500 / 14,500 $435,000
18 July 1990 Columbia Merriweather Post Pavilion 36,460 / 38,000 $984,420
19 July 1990
21 July 1990 Foxborough Sullivan Stadium 57,000 / 60,000 $1,197,000
23 July 1990 Hartford Hartford Civic Center 12,760 / 12,760 $273,063
25 July 1990 Niagara Falls Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center 10,000 / 10,000 $230,000
29 July 1990 East Rutherford Giants Stadium 80,000 / 80,000 $1,711,993
4 August 1990 Milton Keynes England National Bowl 120,000 / 120,000 $2,520,000
5 August 1990
7 August 1990 Manchester Maine Road 80,000 / 83,000 $2,640,000
9 August 1990 Dublin Ireland Point Depot 24,150 / 26,000 $507,150
10 August 1990
13 August 1990 Fréjus France Arènes de Fréjus 13,500 / 13,500 $364,500
16 August 1990 Ghent Belgium Flanders Expo 5,000 / 5,000 $130,000
18 August 1990 Nijmegen Netherlands Stadion de Goffert 14,500 / 14,500 $304,500
19 August 1990 Maastricht Maastricht Exhibition & Congress Centre 3,700 / 3,700 $111,000
22 August 1990 Oslo Norway Jordal Stadion 18,000 / 20,000 130,000
24 August 1990 Stockholm Sweden Olympiastadion 30,000 / 33,000 $602,540
25 August 1990 Copenhagen Denmark Idraetsparken 95,000 / 97,000 $3,230,000
26 August 1990
29 August 1990 Linz Austria Linzer Stadion 28,400 / 28,400 $596,400
31 August 1990 Berlin West Germany Weißensee Sportplatz 6,750 / 6,750 $162,000
1 September 1990 Schüttorf Festival Site 8,500 / 9,000 $178,500
2 September 1990 Ulm Open Air Festival Unknown Unknown
4 September 1990 Budapest Hungary MTK Stadium 5,675 / 5,675 $124,850
5 September 1990 Zagreb Yugoslavia Stadion Maksimir 54,740 / 60,000 $1,204,280
8 September 1990 Modena Italy Festa de l'Unità 45,000 / 45,000 -
11 September 1990 Gijón Spain Hipódromo de las Mestas 10,000 / 10,000 $250,000
12 September 1990 Madrid Rockodromo Arena 9,850 / 12,000 $285,650
14 September 1990 Lisbon Portugal Alvalade Stadium 57,850 / 60,000 $1,909,050
16 September 1990 Barcelona Spain Estadio Olímpico de Montjuic 55,000 / 55,000 $1,650,000
South America
20 September 1990 Rio de Janeiro Brazil Apoteose Square Hall 40,000 / 40,000 $1,052,325
22 September 1990 São Paulo Estádio Palestra Itália 70,000 / 70,000 1,750,000
23 September 1990
25 September 1990 Olímpia Theatre - -
27 September 1990 Santiago Chile Rock in Chile Festival -
Estadio Nacional de Chile
60,456 / 60,456 -
29 September 1990 Buenos Aires Argentina River Plate Stadium 60,356 / 61,000 $1,267,476



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