The Glass Spider Tour was a 1987 worldwide concert tour by David Bowie, launched in support of his album Never Let Me Down. It began in May 1987 and was preceded by a two-week press tour that saw Bowie visit nine countries throughout Europe and North America to drum up public interest in the tour. The Glass Spider Tour was the first Bowie tour to visit Austria, Italy, Spain, Ireland and Wales. Through a sponsorship from Pepsi, the tour was intended to visit Russia and South America as well, but these plans were later cancelled. The tour was, at that point, the longest and most expensive tour Bowie had embarked upon in his career. At the time, the tour’s elaborate set was called “the largest touring set ever”.
Bowie conceived the tour as a theatrical show, and included spoken-word introductions to some songs, vignettes, and employed visuals including projected videos, theatrical lighting and stage props. On stage, Bowie was joined by guitarist Peter Frampton and a troupe of five dancers (choreographed by long-time Bowie collaborator Toni Basil). With the theme “Rock stars vs Reality”, the show was divided into two acts and an encore. The set list was modified over the course of the tour as Bowie dropped some of his newer material in favour of older songs from his repertoire.
The tour was generally poorly received at the time for being overblown and pretentious. Despite the criticism, Bowie in 1991 remarked that this tour laid the groundwork for later successful theatrical tours by other artists, and the set’s design and the show’s integration of music and theatrics has inspired later acts by a variety of artists. Starting in the late 2000s, the tour began to collect accolades for its successes, and in 2010 the tour was named one of the top concert tour designs of all time.
The tour was financially successful and well-attended (being seen by perhaps as many as six million fans worldwide), but the poor critical reception of the album and tour led Bowie to not only abandon plans for other elaborate stage shows, but to reconsider his motivations for making music. The tour was named after the album track “Glass Spider”, and performances from this tour were released on the VHS video Glass Spider (1988, re-released on DVD in 2007).