David Bowie at The Dome 1973

The Dome
Photo by Tony Mould

Concert at The Dome

It was 40 years ago on Wednesday May 23rd 1973 that David Bowie performed at The Dome. He played two shows that evening; I went to the second one which I think started at about 8.30p.m. I had queued up all night with a friend for a ticket a month earlier, so I was really looking forward to seeing this gig. I had become aware of David Bowie when ‘Space Oddity’ was released a few years earlier. Bowie’s popularity had became so huge following his creation of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and ‘Starman’ that tickets were like gold dust for this show.

Queued all night for tickets

When the tickets went on sale the previous month, me and a friend started queuing at around midnight; we were about 30th in the queue. At around 6.00am I went for a walk and the queue was along New Road, down North Street and along by the old ‘Brighton and Hove Herald’ offices towards the entrance to the Pavilion. I was 16 at the time and about to leave school so it was an exciting time.

No dancing in the aisles

I was staying at my Nan’s flat in Bates Estate on the day of the gig, and so caught a number 13 bus from The Avenue. On the way down to The Dome I could see all the fans from the early gig, and it looked like most of the boys had raided their sister’s wardrobes. Everyone was on their feet from the start of the show which did not go down too well with The Dome management. They were quite tough at the time about dancing in the aisles. There used to be a big sign over each side of the stage, warning people not to dance or the show would be stopped.

A very special night

This show went a step too far, as quite a few seats were damaged where people had climbed on them I think a ban on David Bowie performing there again was put in place; I wonder if that still stands? It is in my top ten gigs of all time, not just for the music but for the fact that it was a major music event. Seeing the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ tour in 1973, and the fact that David Bowie went on to be a major force in world music means that I saw something special that night.

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  • Bunking off school, in town quite early. Queuing up at The Dome Ticket Hall ten am sharp and the doors open promptly and the early birds get centre stalls. “Two tickets please!” “Four near the front!” Money in pockets of coats and flimsy slips are slid under the glass in return for crumpled pound notes. Weeks come and go and the day has arrived. It’s Wednesday, and time goes too slow All day at school, excited but cool. “What are you wearing?” “What time will you go?” Back home at last, an interminable day. Bathroom to wash my long hair, clothes all prepared, planned well ahead. Carefully arranged on the chair. Yellow vest and carefully matched loons. Yellow stacks, loaned from a mate. Nail polish lifted from kid sister’s stash. Eyeliner too, looking great. A few quid in change for drink and a cab and hop on the bus into town. Excitement rising, oblivious to the old women and men and their frowns. Off at the Art School and into The Dome. Milling throngs of fans, wound up tight. Look-a-likes and straights mingle and all are alike. All there for one purpose tonight. A half of lager and stand on the stairs, searching the crowd for the mates. We’ll talk and we’ll jitter and then go inside and hope that none are too late. People like peacocks parade and pose; Space boys with the bright coloured manes. “That person’s famous” and “look at his bird” And isn’t that thingy from whatsname? Tension is mounting, we’re getting excited. It can’t be much longer? So tense. The lights slowly dim and people grow quiet for long awaited events. Darkness surrounds us, rustling and coughing. The curtains sweep back and reveal some mike stands, a drum kit and speakers start humming and light flashly bounces off steel. A roar swells inside us and we can’t take more tension A spotlight hits the stage on one side The Man strolls out to an avalanche of cheering: “Not rock’n’roll, genocide”.

    By Marc Turner (26/07/2013)
  • Blimey Marc, how did you get such good seats by getting into town ‘quite early’! I queued through the night and only just got in the stalls, never mind the centre stalls! I have to say you have added a very good comment though, it summed up the night very well.

    By Paul Clarkson (07/08/2013)
  • I snuck out of the house at 5am the day the tickets went on sale and  walked to the ticket office from Chaley road in North Moulscombe, by the time I got to the ticket office there were hundreds of people lining up.

    Just before the office opened a crowd had formed around the entrance so I pushed in (I was only 13) I was getting crushed as people tried to get through the door I think a cop was trying to let a few in at a time.

    So I pretended to faint and I got pushed to the front people were yelling at the cop to let me in. It worked I snagged 4th row back dead center.

    I remember the show and I am sure there was a film camera mounted up on the balcony I have searched for footage of that gig  but never found any.

    Anyway at the end we were all filling out and someone decided to tear down the huge Aladdin Sane display I grabbed the massive poster of the cover art from some guys hand and it hung on my bedroom wall for years.

    Thanks Sharon (my older cousin for taking me to my fist gig and buying me the gold scarf with DAVID written on it).

    By Steve Webb (11/06/2014)
  • Pushed in! Pushed in! Steve Webb, what were you thinking? Me and my friend had been there since midnight! I don’t know, still fair play to you for managing to get such a good seat. I was about 10 rows behind you but never mind! What happened to the ‘Aladdin Sane’ display, did you keep it? In answer to your query about the footage, yes you’re right, there was a tv camera up on the right hand side of the circle and the footage was shown the very next night on Southern Television’s local news. I have often wondered about that camera as it was very big as they were back then, I wouldn’t have wanted to have been sat behind it as it was in front of all the seats. I also remember I knew a girl at school who was devastated as she queued up like I did (all night Steve)! and managed to get tickets in the front row but right at the side. When she got there on the night they had stacked all the amps right at the front of the stage and she couldn’t see a thing except for the odd glimpse of David Bowie when he came to the very front of the stage!

    By Paul Clarkson (15/06/2014)
  • I remember him playing the Dome a couple of years before that gig supporting The Groundhogs! 

    By Simes (11/01/2016)
  • Hi, searching the net after the sad news about David Bowie’s passing. Was at the Dome for this ’73 concert but I also saw him there as a support act to Groundhogs in maybe 1971 but I can’t find any evidence. I certainly felt a change in my musical appreciation when I saw him but am beginning to wonder if I dreamt this.

    By Robbie (11/01/2016)
  • Went with my girlfriend Rose to the early evening show. Came out and it was still light. Fantastic show, have never forgotten it. Rose is now my wife of 40 years!

    By Trevor MacNell (11/01/2016)
  • I was here this night and filmed from the front of the balcony with my Super 8 cine camera

    By Nic Carter-Jones (12/01/2016)
  • Hi Nic, any chance that it’s on-line somewhere? I think there’s a few fans from that night who would love to see it. I remember on Southern TV the following night they showed a film clip from the front balcony on the right-hand side, but I can’t find that anywhere.

    By Paul Clarkson (14/01/2016)
  • I was at the front of the queue with a couple of kids from school there was a couple of others as well. I kept my money in my cowboy boots as was only 14 years old . Between the few of us we bought the front couple of centre rows . I sold all my spare tickets at face value and Collyers school in Horsham was well represented at the concert . At the gig , from the Walter Carlos introduction music to the mimed opening of the imaginary barrier on the stage , we were in for the experience of our young lives. It was not long before we were all on our feet and standing in front of the stage feet from Bowie, he put his leg out over the audience and a lad from school grabbed it and was pulling him in to the crowd, I struck his arm and he let go as I was not going to let the evening be ruined by an idiot stopping the show . At the same time a security guy pulled David back and the show went on . With the melee in the front the first few rows of seats were trashed. Mick Ronsons sweat landed on my forehead but I did wash my face after if only to get the make up off .

    By John Daley (17/01/2016)

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