David Bowie – David Live & Stage

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David Bowie
Artist: David Bowie
Title: David Live & Stage
Label: Virgin
Rating: 8.5/10

CORPORATE LINE: Recorded in July 1974, David Live is an enthralling documentation of Bowie’s innovative and extraordinary 1974 Diamond Dogs tour. Bowie started the tour as a glam rock king, but as the tour progressed, he adopted a new sound and a new look, best described as Philly soul. David Live was culled from five performances from July 8 through July 12, 1974 at Philadelphia’s Tower Theatre. No studio overdubs or re-recordings of voices, instruments or audience have been added, with the exception of several backing vocals due to a loss of microphone contact in places. With a brand new mix by the album’s original producer, Tony Visconti (who also wrote the new edition’s liner notes), this double CD features for the very first time the complete setlist in correct running order, accompanied by a chronology from Kevin Cann. This new edition also includes the CD debut of “Panic In Detroit” and the first-ever release of “Space Oddity” from these shows.

Upon its original release, David Live reached the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic and remains an essential document of the crossover period between Bowie’s Diamond Dogs and Young Americans. For the Diamond Dogs tour, many of Bowie’s familiar songs were reworked in unusual and intriguing ways. “All The Young Dudes” and “The Jean Genie” were delivered cabaret style, “The Width Of A Circle” is re-examined, and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” reconfigured as a Vegas-style torch song, is not to be missed.

Early in 1978, David Bowie began rehearsals for what was to be his biggest tour to that point of his career, including concerts in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia. The majority of the show’s setlist was to be comprised primarily from the Low & Heroes albums, but Bowie surprised his fans by including a selection of songs from the Ziggy Stardust album, rearranged to reflect his new futuristic synthesizer sound.

At the time, Bowie told the media, “I’m going out as myself this time. No more costumes, no more masks. This time it’s the real thing. Bowie Bowie.” True to form with surprises at the ready, Bowie’s stage persona was as flamboyant as ever and the visual elements he employed were designed to make an impression in the large capacity venues he had lined up. The fluorescent tube lighting, which can be seen on the album’s front cover, pulsed slowly during the funereal opener “Warszawa,” then flashed frantically during the rock numbers.

When asked to take charge of recording and mixing Bowie’s 1978 live album Stage, Tony Visconti decided to record it as he would a studio album. He close-miked the band for maximum separation between their instruments to ensure more control during mixing, and he used four microphones for the audience instead of the usual two, with the two extras placed in front of the first row and against the back wall of the venue. Visconti wanted the audience to sound big and real, and he wanted the natural reverb in the concert halls to be part of the sound on the record. Quadraphonic recording was still viable in the late seventies and he wanted to cover this possibility. Now, years later, the Tony Visconti-mixed DVD-A package unveils the full surround sound experience of the set.

The Philadelphia and Boston shows were recorded live for Stage. It was around this time during the tour that Bowie decided to drop “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” and replace it with “Alabama Song.” It was after the tour’s Vienna concert that Bowie and the band first heard the cassette of the Stage album. “They loved it and jumped out of their seats,” Tony Visconti later recalled.

A decision was made at the time to sequence the album in a very different running order from the live performance. The tracks were assembled in a (roughly) chronological order. After many years of living with Stage as it was first compiled, it has been decided to restore the original setlist order of the 1978 concert. The new package’s revised sequencing includes two previously unreleased tracks, “Stay” and “Be My Wife.”

THE REVIEW: The reissues David Live and Stage are significant improvements on the original releases—not to mention the addition of a few new songs. Each album comes with two discs released in digipaks. The one and only thing that is worth complaining about are the digipaks—they might be cheaper to manufacture but they don’t do much for your CD shelf.

“Space Oddity” is one of the new additions to the live album and it’s a real gem. David Live has some of Bowie’s greatest performances of the era. It’s hard to believe he created so much great material during that span—not to mention how amazing these shows must have been.

Fans will be happy to hear their favorites from “All The Young Dudes” to “Suffragette City” to “Ziggy Stardust.” What is really wonderful are the different versions of songs we’ve sang along to a thousand times before. Bowie has always been eclectic and he doesn’t let us down with these live releases.

“Heroes” inspires goosebumps and the sheer mass of “Warszawa” is impressive. Bowie really poured on the guitars and wall of sound for many songs. If it was impressive coming out of my speakers just imagine being in the crowd.

FRANKLY: Fans of Bowie’s will unite in their joy of this wonderful re-issue but it is those who have never dug deep into Bowie that will surely learn the most. David Live and Stage are a one-stop shop to the sheer genius of David Bowie. Rarely does a live record make a great addition to a record collection and it should be no surprise that Bowie worked it out.

Any fan of Bowie, or anyone that doesn’t already own either David Live or Stage, needs to run out and get these re-issues. They are not only classic representations of live rock and roll perfection, but they are musical and much more contiguous with the new track lists.

+ Charlie Craine

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