David Bowie

Parlophone, 1978

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


If you’re looking to get some live David Bowie, the now-sanctioned live shows from the Nassau Coliseum on the Station To Station tour and the Live In Santa Monica ’72 show from the Ziggy tour are your best bets. For fans, the DVDs A Reality Tour and Serious Moonlight also are pretty darn good at showing Bowie’s appeal in concert.

Unfortunately, for a long time, the two official live shows that existed were hardly representative of the artist, and for one as defining and creative as Bowie, this is unacceptable. David Live was a mostly dull affair from the Diamond Dogs tour, showing an artist tired of this glam rock sci-fi sound and looking to broaden his horizons; as such, it’s perfunctory and slow, Bowie pretty much going through the motions. Stage, the second official live double disc, is marginally more interesting because of its source material but still can’t overcome its inessential nature.

In 1978, Bowie was still living in Germany, having released the epochal Low and Heroes and working on Lodger. Those discs are involving, brilliantly produced, and challenging Euro pop-rock with all the warmth of a freezer, not the sort of music that would translate that well to the live stage. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Stage bears this out, its first disc hitting the musical highlights from those two albums but not transcending them.  Simply put, there is no improvement over the originals, nor is there much marked difference, other than some run time and muscle added to “Breaking Glass.” And who decided the opening song should be the morose instrumental dirge “Warszawa,” which sounds like it should be the background music to a film about the Holocaust?

Granted, it’s not easy to find live versions of “Beauty And The Beast,” “Speed Of Life,” and “Black Out,” the latter a great lost Heroes track, so true fans of this era may be intrigued at the subtle changes. Others may fast forward to the second half of the show, in which Bowie plays – yet again – a swath of his big hits from the ‘70s because he has to. “Fame” always sounds good and “Hang On To Yourself” seems flown in from a different show entirely, so out of place and energetic it sounds. But it’s just weird to hear a version of “Ziggy” that somehow segues into the gloomy instrumental “Art Decade,” and it’s unsettling at best.

After a drunken and ill-advised version of “Alabama Song,” Bowie closes out the show with the three best songs from Station To Station, including an intense version of the title song, “TVC15,” and a fantastic version of the overlooked “Stay,” featuring some incredible bass guitar from George Murray. Guitarists Carlos Alomar and Adrian Belew are solid throughout as well; pity you have to sit through half of Ziggy to get to this point.

On a packaging note: the CD reissue presents the show in the actual chronological order it was played, with a handful of overplayed classic rock nuggets removed (“Jean Genie” and “Suffragette City” among them) and the songs no longer faded out in between because, well, they didn’t have to be. This is a marked improvement over the original vinyl version, as the real setlist makes more sense than the bastardized version and also includes “Stay” and “Be My Wife,” which bump this up half a grade. Still, the original recording that miked up the band more than the crowd means the cheering fans are such a non-factor you may wonder if it is live at all.

To be sure, this is for fans only, particularly of the late '70s Bowie output, but even they will likely prefer the studio versions to these. For completists and rabid fans only, Stage is fine in spurts but inessential overall.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2016 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Parlophone, and is used for informational purposes only.