'Hottest ticket in town': Fans remember magic of David Bowie show in St. John's

After news of David Bowie’s death hit social media, fans across Newfoundland and Labrador took to Facebook and Twitter to air out their memories of the late, great Ziggy Stardust.

When David Bowie touched down in St. John's in 1990, the island lit up

A capacity crowd of near 2,500 people saw David Bowie play Memorial Stadium in 1990, and although photographs were prohibited at the show, an enterprising audience member was able to snap this photo. (Submitted by Kelly Duggan)

After news of David Bowie's death hit social media, fans across Newfoundland and Labrador took to Facebook and Twitter to air out their memories of the late, great Ziggy Stardust.

Some of those fans were old enough to remember the concert in St. John's on June 30, 1990 — the only time Bowie visited the province.

The concert was held at Memorial Stadium, near Quidi Vidi Lake, and it was an opportunity for fans to witness Bowie in all his radical, trendsetting glory.

But while fans now speak of the event in whispers, or anecdotal memories of what it was like to be there, when the event was first announced, ticket sales were flat.

"It was probably because the show was supposed to be an afternoon show outdoors, and I think fans who were fans of David Bowie at the time wanted to see the light show, and wanted to see those outrageous costumes," said Glenn Stanford, the former manager of Memorial Stadium.

"Obviously when we brought it inside Memorial Stadium, it became one of the hottest tickets in town, for sure." 

What was once meant to be a concert featuring up to 30,000 fans ended up being an intimate, indoor affair attended by around 2,500 people.

"We only had 2,500 seats at Memorial Stadium at the time and there were no seats on the floor, all the concerts at that time were general admission," said Stanford.

"We packed in as many people as the fire marshal would allow us to have on that night."

Chris Stoodley shared this photo he captured at the David Bowie concert, from near the front row. The ticket stub included in the photo is the original from when the concert was originally planned as an outdoor event. (Submitted by Chris Stoodley)

Dropped into The Duke

While Bowie was only playing in town for one night, the co-owner of The Duke of Duckworth said he had quite the surprise on the night before the show.

Terry O'Rourke said Bowie stopped by for a couple of pints.

"It was the night before he was to play and he just arrived with I guess his minder, or his chauffeur, whoever it was and sat up at the bar," said O'Rourke.

"We just chatted away and we sat around, and there wasn't too many people here, and then he wanted to have a game of pool and we just hung out."

But as much as O'Rourke enjoyed spending time with Bowie, he also said he got schooled a little by the late musician, as Bowie gladly accepted a few pints of Guinness with no money to pay him back.

"I was thinking to myself, now I'm just here working away as a bartender, and I'm after buying the last three pints, and he said 'I don't have any money.'"

But Bowie's cohort eventually picked up the tab for the next drink, and Bowie ended up leaving the bar in a characteristically flamboyant way.

"My last memory of him going up the steps here, was of him making his way out the door, and we had him draped in an Irish flag … like you would."

One night later, with a full house of 2,500 fans looking on, Bowie would perform what would be his first — and last — show in Newfoundland and Labrador.

David Bowie performed at Memorial Stadium as part of his Sound and Vision tour on June 30, 1990. (Submitted by Kelly Duggan)

With files from Zach Goudie


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