David Bowie at Newcastle Mayfair 30 years ago – the last prominent rock star to play there


For four decades, some of the world’s greatest rock bands have traveled to Newcastle to perform at the Mayfair Ballroom.

Imagine watching these A-listers perform on Tyneside at the height of their power: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Queen, U2, The Who, AC / DC, The Police, Nirvana, Deep Purple, T Rex, Fleetwood Mac, Black Sabbath, Slade, Thin Lizzy, Motorhead, The Clash, Free, Iron Maiden, Metallica and more.

Thirty years ago, it was the turn of another bona fide superstar to honor the stage at the legendary club that stood on the corner of Newgate Street and Low Friar Street.

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David Bowie has seen many musical twists and turns during his hugely successful career, and in 1988 he felt he needed to get back to basics and become a member of a band.

The result was Tin Machine in which, alongside three American musicians, Bowie produced unapologetically loud, aggressive and often unmelodic rock that divided fans and critics.

“Ground Control to Major Tom,” it wasn’t, but by then the ever-seeking musical chameleon had earned the right to creatively do whatever he wanted.

On November 5, 1991 – a Tuesday – Mayfair was packed to see Tin Machine.

Bowie had insisted that it was indeed a “group,” but there was only one person the punters had come to see that night.

This happened four years after his previous visit to the region on the Glass Spider World Tour, when 35,000 people flocked to Sunderland’s Roker Park and saw the star deliver a curiously disappointing spectacle, and where the tone shifted. been given by his now notorious geographic blunder as he greeted the huge crowd: “Good evening, Newcastle!”

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Returning to Newcastle proper, the Mayfair show took place 20 years after Bowie performed at the same venue as a relatively unknown 24-year-old who was very soon to see his career take off in droves with the release of the Classic 1971 album Hunky Dory.

The Chronicle was there to report on Tin Machine’s final stop on the scaled-down (by megastar Bowie standards) It’s My Life tour.

“An odd mix of college students, old hippies, and middle-aged couples lined up early in the evening to get the best perspective,” our reviewer noted.

The now demolished Mayfair Ballroom, Newgate Street, Newcastle
The now demolished Mayfair Ballroom, Newgate Street, Newcastle

“It might have been Bonfire Night, but when Bowie is in town, all other entertainment takes a back seat.

“When his assorted band of musical desperados hit the stage, the place blew up.”

If the 2,000 Mayfair fans had hoped for a Bowie classic to slip into tonight’s backdrop – perhaps Heroes, Suffragette City, or Jean Jeannie – it never came.

A year later, Tin Machine disbanded and the star returned to her status as a familiar solo artist.

The Mayfair Ballroom closed in 1999 and was demolished, much to the dismay of many, to make way for The Gate entertainment complex.

And when, in 2016, the death of David Bowie at the age of 69 was unexpectedly announced, it sparked a wave of grief among music fans around the world.

Looking at Bowie’s musical legacy today, Tin Machine wasn’t necessarily a highlight – but still represented an interesting diversion on the music map for a creative genius who just never stopped exploring.

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