20 June 1990: Richfield Coliseum, Richfield, Ohio
Before moving to Central Florida in August 1990, I had some incredible concert-going experiences growing up in Northeast Ohio. By virtue of my connections at the CD store I worked at, I knew the box office manager of the Richfield Coliseum, the main concert venue in Northeast Ohio at the time (and the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers from 1974 until they moved to Gund Arena – now Quicken Loans Arena – 20 years later). So I had connections for good concert seats, and I took advantage of the opportunity twice: once for front-row, center seats for the Cure’s Prayer Tour on August 29, 1989, and again for David Bowie’s Sound + Vision Tour on June 20, 1990.
This was at a time when it wasn’t easy to get pictures at a show; you didn’t have cameras built into your cell phones. Hell, you didn’t have cell phones. I attended the Bowie show with the box office manager, and snuck in a camera (he knew I was doing it). During the latter half of the show I pulled out the camera and snapped off a quick picture. Almost immediately, security started towards me, intent on confiscating the camera, but a member of Bowie’s road crew who we had befriended at the front of the stage intervened and called off the security dogs. I was then free to snap as many shots as I wanted. At one point, the road crew guy even motioned for Bowie to come up and pose directly in front of me, resulting in some spectacular photos (the best ones are below) – and I can only imagine how much more impressive the photos would be if I’d had a half-way decent camera at the time.
During the encore, after I had blown through the entire roll of film (yes, film), Bono joined Bowie on stage for an incredible rendition of “Jean Genie” mixed with Van Morrison’s “Gloria”. I do wish I’d had film left in the camera, but I was so mesmerized by the fact that not only was I staring Bowie in the face but also Bono, I probably wouldn’t have been able to take a good picture.
After the show, we chatted with Bowie’s road crew some more, and I was able to snag the setlist directly off the stage. I have kept that setlist, along with the guitar pick, ticket stub, photos, and negatives from that night in a cigar box for 20 years. Recently, all these memories and the desire to dig out the physical evidence of that long ago night were stirred up by a Twitter conversation with friends and couldn’t be ignored.
I tried directly scanning the negatives into our photo software, but couldn’t get a clean print, so I ended up scanning some of the photos I had developed two decades ago directly into the computer. At the time I took the photos, I had no idea about photo composition or lighting or the proper use of a flash, and considering the quality of camera I probably had, it’s a miracle any of the photos came out at all. A couple of them are horrible, but a handful, amazingly, actually look pretty good.
When I have mentioned attending the Sound + Vision Tour to older Bowie fans and rock snobs in the years since, I’m often met with derision, but seeing Bowie that night with his then-musical director Adrian Belew, and a Bono encore... well, that was religion to me.
(As a cool side note, five-and-a-half years before I would meet her, my wife was also in the house that night, taking in the show from the rafters seats.)