Former bandmates of David Bowie recalled the health alert that contributed to the artist’s decision to end his touring career in 2004. Bowie had appeared reinvigorated on the A Reality Tour – the biggest-grossing road trip of the year – until he performed at the Hurricane Festival in Germany on June 25. At first diagnosed as nerve damage, it was later confirmed as a blocked artery, and he underwent emergency heart surgery in Hamburg, forcing the cancellation of 14 further tour dates.

However, in the recently-broadcast documentary David Bowie: The Last Five Years (via, some of his colleagues have told how he first began suffering symptoms when they were in the Czech Republic a few days earlier. Guitarist Earl Slick told how the 57-year-old bandleader had seemed “happier” and “healthier” than ever before until the night in question, when “he started to hunch over and looked over, and I looked over at him and I went, ‘There’s something really wrong,’ and I signaled to his tour manager.”

Guitarist Gerry Leonard recalled, “There was a sense that David looked as young and as youthful as ever on that tour. It did seem like he had the gift from the gods, like he was never going to get old.” Of the Czech Republic incident he added, “It was a little mysterious to everybody as to what it might be, because it really did come out of the blue.”

The band moved on to the date in Germany. “We played the entire set and it seemed normal, not quite as energetic and as charged as the performance before,” Leonard said. “We finished the show and then it seemed like David was in a lot of pain, and obviously something was wrong.”

Bassist Gail Ann Dorsey remembered, “They sent an ambulance and took him away.” Bowie considered the possibility of ending his career, the documentary suggested, although Leonard noted that the band remained in touch. “We would exchange emails about things that were interesting to each other, but there wasn’t a lot of contact.”

Bowie never toured again, although he regrouped the band for 2013's The Next Day, released three years before his death from cancer in 2016.


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