David Bowie’s twenty-fourth album, The Next Day, was recorded secretly, and unlike most albums today featured no cameos. Combine that with an understated album cover depicting the title on a white square covering Bowie’s head, and it’s clear that The Next Day is presented with a straightforward veteran-like demeanor. It doesn’t offer any bells and whistles, or trigger-ready PR pitches. The Next Day is simply Bowie playing rock music, and playing it as well as ever. The album has been received very positively from press, and as expected from the rock god’s enduring fan base it debuted at #1 in the UK. Hitting the US at #2, it sold well in pretty much every country. So it now begs the question: what about a tour? A worldwide tour would quickly sell out, so finances aren’t the issue. It’s more to do with Bowie being content, and knowing since the album’s release that a tour would not be planned. The question is, as Bowie sees his fans’ overwhelmingly positive reaction to his comeback, is there a chance he will change his mind?
Preceded by a miniscule (for Bowie’s standards) marketing campaign, The Next Day isn’t exactly geared toward picking up new fans. It’s satiating particularly to longtime fans, from tracks like the moody ballad “Where Are We Now?” recalling Low-era psychedelia and “Valentine’s Day” touting a Scary Monsters-like ‘80s rock fervor. But Bowie is one of the few active musicians who could tour on his old stuff alone, and still sell out arenas. He has that entire discography full of classics, and now a fresh album in The Next Day. So, material isn’t an issue for touring either. Again, the reason for a lack of touring comes back to Bowie’s ideology, which is reflected in the barebones marketing for The Next Day. He’s past the point of acquiring fans and requiring the perks of publicity and sold-out arenas. If he wants to tour at this point, it will be on his own terms, like Paul McCartney or Bob Dylan – musicians who play only when they want to, and whose fans understand that. Whereas most artists tour to increase their image and revenue, these are artists who are filled to the brim with both those aspects.
Some have wondered if Bowie’s reluctance to tour is because he feels The Next Day is not suited for it. Producer Tony Visconti initially told NME that Bowie is “fairly adamant he’s never gonna perform live again… One of the guys would say, ‘Boy, how are we gonna do all this live?’ and David said, ‘We’re not’. He made a point of saying that all the time.” Visconti clarified later, stating Bowie just said he “won’t tour for this album.” Does that mean that with another album, perhaps another tour? Holding off for another Bowie album might take another decade, like The Next Day, but you never know when Bowie will get the itch to tour again – whether he intends to explore new material, or does something similar to other veterans where he goes around and performs his classic albums in full. Regardless, fans will be waiting in the wings for tickets. After astronaut Chris Hadfield performed the first music video in space, of Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, and Bowie released a brand new spanking album, 2013 seems like the year of Bowie’s resurgence. Now may be a good time for him to maximize the renewed spotlight, and plan a tour. At least fans can hope that, instead of releasing assorted live albums the next few years, Bowie decides to take to the stage instead, for at least one last go-around.