Remembering David Bowie's Isolar Tour in 1976

David Bowie at Madison Square Garden, 1976
Photo Credit
Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

By 1976, audiences had come to expect David Bowie looking different with every new album. But concertgoers in early February of that year witnessed his most dramatic transformation yet: The Thin White Duke.

Bowie's Isolar Tour in promotion of Station to Station kicked off in arenas across North America with 40 dates through February and March, followed by a European leg in April and May. Audiences were in for a more disorienting show than before, with a minimalist stage design and a screening of Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali's surrealist short Un chien andalou before the music started. Bowie and his five-man band performed nearly all of Station to Station alongside a selection of his biggest hits from the '70s.

Read More: November 1975: David Bowie Releases "Golden Years"

But it was Bowie's onstage persona, The Thin White Duke, that really turned heads. Rail-thin and pale, clad in black and white with his hair dyed blonde, it was the visual representation of a most bizarre period for the singer: struggling with a cocaine habit, obsessed with the occult, and subsisting on little more than peppers and milk. (Bowie later admitted he had little memory of this era of his career, once quipping "I know it was in L.A. because I read it was.")

Still, Station to Station's icy electronic funk bridged a gap between the all-out soul of the previous year's Young Americans while predicting the sounds he'd experiment with when moving to Berlin during the rest of the decade. And the Isolar Tour was immortalized in one of Bowie's most striking concert albums: Live Nassau Coliseum '76, released in 2010.

Read More: Turn and Face the Strange: David Bowie's Biggest Hits

 

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