NEW YORK -- When he learned he'd won passes from a local radio station to see the Rolling Stones, Darren Leiss bought his brother a plane ticket from Texas so he could join him.
Together they were going to see "the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world" in a small, intimate club -- a show being broadcast live on television.
Then came the news: Mick Jagger was ill and the Stones would have to cancel at the 11th hour. Another rock legend, David Bowie, was going to fill in as the main act Tuesday night at the Capitol Theater in Westchester. With no time to change their plans, the brothers made the best of the Thin White Duke, in hopes that Bowie would return the favor.
"I'm very disappointed," Leiss, a 33-year-old Bay Shore Long Island resident said before the concert. "I was anticipating seeing the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world, but I'll enjoy the show for what it is."
What it was as far as most were concerned was an hour of classic chameleonic Bowie, singing a mix of his biggest hits and newest tunes to a global audience. What's more, he filled some major rock 'n' roll shoes with style and class, said die-hard Stones fan Andre Christopher, 47, of New York City.
"David Bowie is the renaissance man of rock 'n' roll. He gave the music
industry style," added Christopher, who in 1966 saw his first Rolling Stones concert in Warsaw, Poland, where he grew up.
Being a fan of both Bowie and the Stones, he was happy to see either band perform at MTV's inaugural episode of its new series Live at the 10 Spot. "While I admire both bands for their ability to survive in the ever-changing world of rock 'n' roll, Bowie is definitely the more inventive when it comes to musical experimenting."
MTV first found itself in a tight spot when the Stones called Monday to say Mick Jagger wasn't feeling well and that they would have to postpone. Having only one day to find a replacement, the music television program recruited Bowie, who was already scheduled for the gig later this fall and was in New York City with a night off between his performance at The Supper Club and Radio City Music Hall.
While MTV was certainly lucky to have found a replacement of arguably equal stature, many ticket holders were not as enthusiastic.
At 19, Lorne Myers of Merrick, N.Y. found himself with 10 new best friends when he landed tickets to see the Rolling Stones. Then came the cancellation and the end of their "friendship." "I'm not here by choice," said Meredith Kleinhaus, also 19, of Bellmore, N.Y., who took one of Myers' tickets. "I was dragged here by Lorne; I don't even know what David Bowie sings."
Although the general mood of the audience was one of disappointment, as
showtime drew near, a buzz of excitement energized the crowd. After all,
no matter what your opinion of Bowie may be, the very mention of his name is enough to illicit some sort of visceral reaction in most people. In moments he would appear live on stage for all the world to view.
On an understated stage with white curtains as backdrop, three huge
blow-up eyeballs on the stagefloor, and an impressive production of
lighting effects, the enigmatic performer ran through a few quick warm-up songs, including "The Superman" and "Panic in Detroit." He seemed in an
upbeat mood, raring to give it his all.
During commercial breaks, he continually joked with the audience, grinning ear-to-ear and soaking up the energy they thrust upon the stage. His current band, consisting of Gail Ann Dorsey (bass), Mike Garson (keyboards), Zachary Alford (drums) and Reeves Gabrels (guitar), quickly won over any skeptics, especially Gabrels, who could give Eddie Van Halen a run for his money and frequently elicited roars of approval from the audience.
Beginning the show alone on acoustic guitar with the song "Quicksand,"
Bowie was the essence of cool. Joined mid-song by the full band, he
then ran through an abbreviated set list, mixing old and new for the hour-long live show. The set included "The Jean Genie," "I'm Afraid of Americans," "Look Back in Anger," "Scary Monsters," "Little Wonder," "Fame" and "Hallo Spaceboy."
Closing things with "All the Young Dudes," Bowie was drowned out
with cheers when he sang the line "Now my brother sits alone with his Beatles and his Stones." One could only guess what was going through the minds of folks in the crowd at that point.
Whatever their thoughts, Bowie had their attention, and MTV couldn't have been more relieved.
Live at the 10 Spot is MTV's latest attempt to attract an audience that has in recent years turned away from the channel, which has all but abandoned the original format of round-the-clock music videos for a variety of game shows, animation and "soap opera"-like programming. If Tuesday's dazzling production is an indication of what's to come, MTV may finally be on to something.
The weekly show, normally airing Tuesday nights, will feature a variety of musical talent. The Rolling Stones have rescheduled their appearance and will hit the stage at an undisclosed location on Oct. 25.
Meanwhile, John Bowman, 27, of Mountainside N.J., was left to consider what Tuesday might have been. "What an incredible night this would have been if it was Mick Jagger slapping the hands of the stage-front audience members as the band whipped out some old classics in this little place." [Wed., Oct. 15, 1997, 3 p.m. PDT]