Ahead of the January 2019 European tour A Bowie Celebration, which looks back on David Bowie’s 2000 Glastonbury performance, legendary keyboard player Mike Garson remembers the historic show.

Keyboardist Mike Garson remembers Bowie ahead of 2019 celebration tour
Original artwork by Helen Green, based on photography by Steve Rose

 

World-renowned Bowie keyboardist Mike Garson has announced that the January tour dates for A Bowie Celebration will honour David Bowie’s Glastonbury 2000 performance which was described by the NME as “not only the greatest Glastonbury headline performance but the best headline slot at any festival ever”.

The legendary Bowie Glastonbury 2000 performance which featured Garson, Mark Plati and Earl Slick from the A Bowie Celebration band, was recently released to huge critical acclaim.

Mike Garson’s studio and home burned to the ground in the tragic Southern California fires earlier this month, but he was determined that the tour still go ahead and that it specifically celebrate the incredible night of 25 June 2000 when Bowie performed an astounding greatest hits set to hundreds of thousands of delirious fans.

Mike Garson Remembers Glastonbury in 2000 with David Bowie

I was standing backstage with David Bowie and fellow bandmates preparing to perform at the Glastonbury Festival in 2000. David looked out at the audience and saw what is told to have been a quarter of a million fans. There was something about that day that made me feel, even before beginning to perform, like it would be the most powerful concert to ever happen in Glastonbury history.

I felt David’s apprehension. He seemed just a little nervous. He took a breath, looked me straight in the eye and asked me to go out to warm up the audience on my own – much like asked me 23 years earlier at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on the night he knew he would be retiring Ziggy Stardust forever. Once again, I almost had a heart attack. I walked out onto the stage all alone with nothing but the monstrous sea of fans. I was ready to play some jazz.

There was just one problem. From the first note, not a sound was coming out of my keyboard. Within a second, at least fifty crew members flooded on and off the stage scrambling to figure out what the problem might be. The crowd was getting anxious. I was getting nervous and turning red. I was just so happy that David wasn’t on stage because if he had started without the piano we would have been in big trouble. The three minutes I was onstage without any sound felt like three years! It finally dawned on me that the volume on my keyboard was turned off. It wouldn’t surprise me if I was the one who turned it all the way down after our sound check. Oh boy.

I started playing Greensleeves. I have no idea why. I played it at a fairly brisk tempo because I knew the audience was waiting for their real hero to take the stage. The rest of the band started to walk out on stage while I began to wind down and finish my improv. Then David walked out and the crowd went crazy. We played for them for two hours. After having played with David for more than a thousand shows, I can easily report that our night in Glastonbury was my favorite concert. I remember the thrill of playing Life On Mars with the audience knowing every word to that, not to mention every other song we played.

I’ve thought about that show ever since and have talked about it at length with the musicians I shared the stage with that evening. It makes me very happy to see that show now being released for those who were with us that night to relive the magic and for so many more to be able to share in the joy of the music we made on that special night.

I’m thrilled to be continuing David’s legacy with such an amazing band of fellow Bowie alumni members and a wonderful mix of world-renowned vocalists with A Bowie Celebration: The David Bowie Alumni Tour in cities across Europe and North America beginning in January 2019. We look forward to continuing the celebration of David’s music with you when I’ll make sure to keep the volume of my keyboard up each night”.

Dates and ticket information for A Bowie Celebration: The David Bowie Alumni Tour are available here.

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