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David Bowie - Stage  CD (album) cover


David Bowie


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3.89 | 79 ratings

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4 stars This is a solid live recording from the Isolar II tour Bowie undertook in 1978, primarily showcasing material from Low and Heroes but with a few throwbacks - including an extended set of material from Ziggy Stardust. Bowie sounds more relaxed and comfortable than he has in a live context for a long while. On one level, this is reassuring - he was in a bad way just a few years prior - but it also means that the set, being a bit more relaxed, is also a bit less compelling. Compare it, say, to the dark energy of the 1976 Nassau concert (made available for the first time on the Who Can I Be Now? boxed set and later given a standalone release), or for that matter to the manic panic of the Cracked Actor live set from 1974 (recently released and putting David Live into the shade). Still, when the material at hand is this good and the band assembled is so professional, the show still ends up pretty good, though not quite essential.

Moreover, the chilly art rock experimentation of the Berlin era doesn't really suggest the warmth and spontaneity of live performance very much - so Bowie wisely doesn't try to recapture the sound of the most experimental parts of those albums onstage, instead giving the material an extensive reworking to make it more amenable for a live band, ("What In the World" may offer the most radical example of this). Taking on Adrian Belew as live guitarist lends a different but interestingly so sound to many of the songs, especially the Heroes material, which is rather transformed when you take Robert Fripp away and put Adrian Belew in his place.

(I have to wonder, in fact, whether Fripp had this album in mind when considering Belew for the 1980s King Crimson revival - after all, anyone who could reinterpret Fripp's approach in their own distinct style to this extent is surely a rare find.)

Earlier releases of the album hacked about the running order a lot, which rather shakes you out of the live context; more recent rereleases on CD restore missing songs and put the set list back how it's supposed to be. The best of these is the 2017 edition released on the A New Career In a New Town boxed set, which restores the final missing songs from the setlist (aside from Rebel Rebel, which was only occasionally performed on the tour as an encore), providing finally a complete Isolar II set for the listener's enjoyment. (I don't even miss the encore very much - the upbeat take on TVC 15 the album closes with is already a joyful enough farewell for my tastes.)

Warthur | 4/5 |


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