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David Bowie - Stage  CD (album) cover


David Bowie


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3.89 | 79 ratings

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3 stars A somewhat insignificant and throwaway live album, but definitely better in its 2005 form than in its original 1978 form. While the 2005 reissue more or less creates the sense of a full show from the "Heroes" tour (it's still a little short, though), the original version had a strange ordering of tracks that would have made it feel extremely artificial, not to mention that (according to reports; I've never actually heard the original issue) the tracks each faded out with applause. The setlist is mostly material from the previous three albums (including four instrumentals), with "Fame" thrown in for good measure (as well as a fairly horrifying atonal cover of "Alabama Song" that's so bad it actually becomes kinda neat), but it also scratches the nostalgia itch in a strange way by including a whopping five tracks from Ziggy Stardust ("Five Years," "Soul Love," "Star," "Hang Onto Yourself," "Ziggy Stardust"), with no overlaps with David Live. In the original release, these tracks made up the whole first side of the album (in the reissue, they're presented in the middle of the set, as the start of the second disc), for some reason I can't fathom; maybe the people compiling the set thought people would be more likely to buy the album if they saw Ziggy material at the top, I dunno. Anyway, these renditions are nowhere near the disasters that the renditions of Ziggy songs were on Live, but they're weirdly sterile, and presenting them all in a row makes it feel like David was going out of his way to fill the perceived need for material from the back catalogue in the most perfunctory way possible. I don't skip these tracks, but they're not the main draw of the album.

Nah, the draw of the album is the recent material, where David and his backing band (featuring none other than Adrian Belew on guitar, along with Carlos Alomar in his standard guitar role) do their best to perform these tracks in all their technophilian splendor. The original release made the weird decision to cram the album's four instrumentals ("Warszawa," "Sense of Doubt," "Speed of Life," "Art Decade") onto the third side, but hearing them in roughly their original setlist placements makes their inclusion feel less like pointless reproductions of the studio versions. Having "Warszawa" as the concert opener, in particular, just feels really classy: I wish I could have seen one of these shows, with Bowie hiding himself behind a chamberlain, blending into the ensemble until his voice pops up with the wordless sounds. "Speed of Life" feels perfectly at home with all the rest of the material, and while the idea of hearing "Sense of Doubt" and "Art Decade" live seems awfully strange, there are just enough changes to keep them from feeling redundant.

Most of the rest of the concert consists of regular material from "Heroes" and Low (as well as the aforementioned "Fame" and "Alabama Song"), where the songs are done similarly to the originals but not quite identical. These tracks all sound fine, but not especially remarkable. Where the album really picks up steam is in the final three tracks, where Bowie brings out the Station to Station material. The intensity produced by the noisy introduction of that album's title track is just breathtaking, and hearing this version in full just reaffirms to me the idea that this is one of Bowie's best songs. "Stay" and "TVC15" close out the album, and while "TVC15" doesn't have quite the same strange metallic crunch to it that made the original so fabulous, it's still lots of fun, and "Stay" confirms its place as one of the best crowd pleasers Bowie ever wrote.

I probably wouldn't recommend this for a casual fan, and I might not even recommend the original version to many fans of this era of Bowie's career, but now that the reissue is the standard version, I'd definitely recommend it to anybody who liked the last few albums. Definitely don't get it before the studio albums it covers, though.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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