David Bowie couldn't be contained by the grooves of a vinyl. His music was theater. His lyrics were pulp fiction. A Bowie song had to be performed, and the late musician made every effort to put that creative energy in front of people. Here, we dig through 40 years of live performances to bring you a few of Bowie's concert highlights, a streamable taste of his sensational, sensual, spotlight-ready spirit.
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"Ziggy Stardust Tour," 1973
Full of glam and sci-fi imagery, Bowie's double-album tour (including tracks from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Aladdin Sane) lasted two full years.
The Young Music Show/YouTube
"Diamond Dogs Tour," 1974
Recorded and chopped up for BBC's Bowie documentary, Cracked Actor, the Diamond Dogs tour was a leap into the elaborate. There's no full version of any show available online, but you can hear his Los Angeles show in its entirety here.
"The Low / Heroes World Tour," 1978
Bowie traveled the globe with his free-flowing numbers (and snakeskin coat) on this road show (also known as "Isolar II").
"Serious Moonlight Tour," 1983
Let's Dance was a huge album and "Serious Moonlight" was smaller showcase blown out by success. Even at his most modest, Bowie had audiences going nuts and shelling out hundreds for an in-person experience.
"The Glass Spider Tour," 1987
Tied to his album Never Let Me Down, this nine-country tour upped Bowie's theatricality, which is saying something. The shows included spoken word poetry and video projection, which often bled into the actual performances.
"Outside Summer Festivals Tour," 1996
Alexander McQueen provided wardrobe for Bowie's '90s world tour, which included this performance at the Loreley Festival in Germany.
David Bowie & Licensees/YouTube
VH1 Storytellers: David Bowie, 1999
Bowie concluded his "The Hours..." tour with a stop at VH1's intimate, televised venue. Fans came for the music, and melted in their seats over the stories. Bowie, as he admits, could have spent all day telling anecdotes. You can watch the full version here.
David Bowie & Licensees/YouTube
"A Reality Tour," 2003
Bowie did less dancing and contorting at age 56, but his vocals were as strong as ever. Here, he performs at Madison Square Garden, backed by a full band who became an integral part of his showmanship in the later years.
"Keep a Child Alive Fundraiser," 2006
Bowie's final performance came and went without fanfare. He joined Alicia Keys, Damian Marley, and comedian Wanda Sykes for the charity event, performing a three-tune set of "Wild Is the Wind," "Fantastic Voyage," and "Changes," and then that was it. Though he would record and release subsequent music -- including the trippy single to his album Blackstar -- the "Keep a Child Alive" appearance would be his last.
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Matt Patches is Thrillist’s Entertainment Editor. He previously wrote for Grantland, Esquire.com, Vulture, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Guardian. He dreams of visiting Bowie's home planet one day. Find him on Twitter @misterpatches.