David Bowie Sings “Changes” in His Last Live Performance, 2006

Note: This post was pub­lished on our site less than two weeks ago–December 29, 2015–when we had no idea that David Bowie was in the final days of an 18 month bat­tle with can­cer. In the post, Josh Jones won­dered whether the video fea­tured above would be Bowie’s last live per­for­mance. And, alas, tonight we dis­cov­er that it’s appar­ent­ly so. David Bowie’s offi­cial Twit­ter and Face­book accounts, not to men­tion major news­pa­pers, have just report­ed that David Bowie has died, only two days after his 69th birth­day and the release of his new album Black­star. We’ll have more to say about Bowie, a hero of ours, in the com­ing days. But, for now, we leave you with the sad news and this now his­toric per­for­mance caught on lam­en­ta­bly grainy video. –D.C

The man of a thou­sand hair­cuts, David Bowie has been the van­guard for cre­ative rein­ven­tion for longer than many of his fans have been alive. As soon as he’s made us think he’s exhaust­ed his imag­i­na­tion, he reap­pears with yet anoth­er album, anoth­er look, anoth­er the­atri­cal tour. Except that last bit isn’t like­ly to hap­pen again. We may have seen the end of Bowie the per­former some time ago, accord­ing to such sources as long­time Bowie pro­duc­er Tony Vis­con­ti (who worked with him on 2013’s The Next Day) and British con­cert pro­mot­er John Gid­dings.

“David is one of the best artists I’ve ever worked with,” said Gid­dings in Octo­ber, ”but every time I see him now, before I even speak to him, he goes, ‘I’m not tour­ing.’” Does this rule out the odd one-off appear­ance? Who knows. Noth­ing is for cer­tain with Bowie. But it may well be that the per­for­mance above, a duet of “Changes” with Ali­cia Keys from 2006, rep­re­sents the leg­endary shape shifter’s last gig. (And if so, we hope some bet­ter-qual­i­ty video of it sur­faces.)

Bowie appeared with Keys, Dami­an Mar­ley, and come­di­an Wan­da Sykes at New York’s Ham­mer­stein Ball­room for a fundrais­er and sang Sta­tion to Sta­tion’s “Wild is the Wind” and Lodger’s “Fan­tas­tic Voy­age” in addi­tion to “Changes,” all fit­ting notes to end on, if this is indeed the end of his live per­form­ing career. He had rarely tak­en the stage since his 2004 heart attack dur­ing the Real­i­ty tour, but, Rolling Stone points out, “that didn’t stop him from play­ing with Arcade Fire twice in 2005 and David Gilmour the fol­low­ing year.”

But that was ten years ago. Dur­ing the record­ing of The Next Day, Vis­con­ti report­ed that Bowie insist­ed there would be no live shows, and there weren’t. Now, Bowie’s sur­prised us again with a new album, Black­star, and a ten-minute video, above, that looks like all the para­noid dystopi­an visions in 90s albums like Out­side, Earth­ling, and Hea­then come ter­ri­fy­ing­ly true. I can imag­ine this most recent, per­haps final, entry in the Bowie canon would make for a hell of a stage show, but it looks like he will pass that torch to the younger artists who con­tin­ue to inspire him as he ages grace­ful­ly. Black­star will be released on Jan­u­ary 8th, Bowie’s 69th birth­day.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Lis­ten to Fred­die Mer­cury and David Bowie on the Iso­lat­ed Vocal Track for the Queen Hit ‘Under Pres­sure,’ 1981

50 Years of Chang­ing David Bowie Hair Styles in One Ani­mat­ed GIF

David Bowie’s Top 100 Books

David Bowie Becomes a DJ on BBC Radio in 1979; Intro­duces Lis­ten­ers to The Vel­vet Under­ground, Talk­ing Heads, Blondie & More

A 17-Year-Old David Bowie Defends “Long-Haired Men” in His First TV Inter­view (1964)

David Bowie and Cher Sing Duet of “Young Amer­i­cans” and Oth­er Songs on 1975 Vari­ety Show

David Bowie Sings ‘I Got You Babe’ with Mar­i­anne Faith­full in His Last Per­for­mance As Zig­gy Star­dust

Ricky Ger­vais Cre­ates Out­landish Com­e­dy with David Bowie

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (4)
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  • Robert says:

    No pop artist was as vul­ner­a­ble as David Bowie: almost every song was filled with deep emo­tions. Again and again he changed his image and put him­self in the spot­light as the vul­ner­a­ble indi­vid­ual apart from all oth­ers. He lift­ed us all up with the most beau­ti­full music, fash­ion, art, the­atre and so on. He per­son­ifide West­ern cul­ture which in the end is all about the intrin­sic val­ue and human­i­ty of the cre­ative indi­vid­ual human.
    This mornig I real­ized that he made a big­ger impres­sion on me than The Bea­t­les, The Rolling Stones, Zap­pa and Lou Reed.
    He ele­vat­ed us all I think and showed us what its real­ly like to be human. The best artist the Unit­ed King­dom has giv­en us the last cen­tu­ry.
    All the love in the world David. And a thou­sand, ten thou­sand times thnx for all the beau­ti­full art and lessons you gave us.

  • Divol says:


  • Gordana says:

    …but he is in Narnia…the mag­i­cal world behind the secret wardrobe door…
    But, he might just come back one day…or he might stay there for­ev­er…

  • Ronny says:

    Deeply sad­dened by the pass­ing of a musi­cian I have loved since child­hood.

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