Saturday, October 17, 2009

David Bowie 15: Stage

Satisfied with the sounds that comprised Low and “Heroes”, Bowie felt empowered enough to tour with a band tasked with recreating them onstage. This time out the flash guitarist was Adrian Belew, with two keyboard players and an electric violin further augmenting his usual rhythm section. Then, for the second time in four years, he issued a double live album from said tour.
Unfortunately, as a live album, Stage might have gotten more respect if it hadn’t seemed so careless. The packaging was half-assed, and the most effort seemed to have been put into resequencing the setlist into thematic, chronologic sides. Five songs from Ziggy Stardust are shuffled and moved to take up side one; side two stays upbeat with “Station To Station”, “Fame”, and “TVC 15”. Instrumental pieces and songs with vocals from the last two albums fill up sides three and four respectively. Maybe this worked for people who tended to listen to the same side repeatedly without flipping it over or changing discs, but it distracts from the “you are there” experience. It’s too bad, since some of the performances and recreations of rather elaborate studio tracks are excellent. (He seemed in a pretty good mood, too.)
Ryko’s expansion of the album added his wacky re-arragement of “Alabama Song” as an afterthought, but still stretched it to two CDs when it all would have fit on one. The 2005 remaster finally rejigged the tracklist to reflect the actual show, and added two more tracks, justifying a two-disc set. Then, 2017’s A New Career In A New Town box set presented the original album sequence alongside a new mix by Tony Visconti reflecting the true setlist with two more tracks, actual crowd response, and no fades between tracks.
Stage (2017) was eventually released on its own, and is the preferred version, but just as with David Live, an alternate view from the same tour became available for comparison. Recorded only two months later and a continent away, Welcome To The Blackout was mixed in 1979 for possible film release, but stayed on the shelf until 2018’s Record Store Day, with a CD version following. While very similar to Stage, it’s got a little more life, and there’s even more music, with a mid-set performance of “Sound And Vision” and “Rebel Rebel” as the closer.

David Bowie Stage (1978)—3
1991 Rykodisc: same as 1978, plus 1 extra track
2005 rerelease: same as 1991, plus 2 extra tracks
2018 Stage (2017) rerelease: same as 2005, plus 2 extra tracks
David Bowie Welcome To The Blackout (Live London ’78) (2018)—3

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