David Bowie wrote his 1971 classic “Queen Bitch” as a tribute to Lou Reed, and at his 50th birthday concert at Madison Square Garden in 1997, he finally had a chance to sing it with him. They followed it up with the Velvet Underground‘s “I’m Waiting for the Man” before wrapping up with Reed’s 1989 comeback hit “Dirty Blvd.”
Bowie is a huge Lou Reed fan and he even produced his 1972 solo LP Transformer (featuring the huge hit “Walk on the Wild Side”), but this show marked one of the few times they actually shared a stage. Lou Reed/Velvet Underground songs like “White Light/White Heat” were regular parts of Bowie’s concerts on his Ziggy Stardust tour, all the way up to his final outing in 2003-04.
“We’re still friends after all these years,” Reed told Rolling Stone in 2004. “We go to the occasional art show and museum together, and I always like working with him. I really love what David does, so I’m happy he’s still doing it and that he’s still interested. I saw him play here in New York on his last tour, and it was one of the greatest rock shows I’ve ever seen. At least as far as white people go. Seriously.”
The 1997 Madison Square Garden show also featured Frank Black, Dave Grohl, Robert Smith, Sonic Youth and Billy Corgan. Bowie retired his hits on his 1990 concert, so the concert marked the first time he’d played songs like “Space Oddity” in many years.
At the time of the show, Bowie’s career had reached somewhat of a low point. His 1995 LP Outside failed to connect with fans and critics, and he hadn’t had much real success since the Let’s Dance album in 1983. Later in 1997, “I’m Afraid of Americans” became the first Bowie song to connect with the general public in well over a decade. It paved the way for his comeback albums with producer Tony Visconti in the early 2000s.