Last fall, the news came that a series of 1990s live albums; two from three separate tours of David Bowie would be released under the banner “Brilliant Live Adventures.” At the time the series of six albums was teased with the details of each one being trickled out. I wondered at the time if any of the shows that I had seen would be among the albums issued.
Because, if anything, the 1990s were my decade of David Bowie live. I was too young to see him in the 70s. By 1980 I was interested in getting all of the music from him that I could. But that stopped cold for years when “Let’s Dance” was released. For the next three albums, I didn’t want to see him in the 80s! I could have seen the “Never Let me Down” tour and didn’t hesitate for a second to pass it up. Which would have been unthinkable even five years earlier. By the time I finally saw him on the “Sound + Vision” tour of 1990 it was fascinating staging, but it didn’t really hit me as being prime David Bowie, even though he was performing a mostly excellent set of material with Adrian Belew on lead guitar. The nature of the performance meant that it was all timed to within an inch of its life to the huge videos projected onto scrims several stories high in the venue. Impressive, but cold and clinical by nature. Though I loved the Tin Machine album of 1988, he still needed to move forward and get out of his Phil Collins Years in regards to his solo career. That would begin to happen after the dissolution of Tin Machine with the promising, yet still spotty “Black Tie White Noise” album of 1993.
The second time I saw Bowie was on the “Outside” summer shed tour of 1995 with Nine Inch Nails opening up. I had been disappointed [to say the least] by the overegged yet undercooked “Outside” album that had too much attention given to the elements that didn’t matter and suffered for its pointless framing conceits that managed to deflate the entire project. I had the album for a week by the time we trekked up to Atlanta to see the show, but having strategically missed Nine Inch Nails, the show we saw was excellent.
Bowie’s band had re-absorbed the amazing Mike Garson on piano, who had reconnected with Bowie on the superb “Buddha Of Suburbia” album two years earlier. I was thrilled to see Reeves Gabrels; forever known to me as the Man Who Saved Bowie’s Bacon®, playing lead guitar live after loving his tone on the Tin Machine albums. Bowie had a fantastic set list full of well-chosen material that very smartly slotted deep cuts cheek-by-jowl with his current material. He had famously “retired” his many hits on the “Sound + Vision” tour of 1990; a move I was more than happy to accept if it meant that I would never heard “Let’s Dance.”
We next saw Bowie in 1997 in a large club where he gave his longest concert ever. It was worlds apart from the clenched-jaw professionalism of the first two shows I had seen. It was actually thrilling and surmounted the wall of fame and rock star privilege that had until this time enveloped Bowie. Bowie and his band were on fire and having a blast as they purposefully played every song in their rehearsed repertoire just for the fun of doing it. Happily, we were there to experience this gift. And now live sets undertaken from the albums “Outside,” “Earthling,” and “Hours…” are once again coming our way if we want to listen.
From what I understand, the first issue was a difficult to navigate hot mess of a website where buying the discs was more challenging that it should have been. I saw the first CD/LP and had a nominal interest in perhaps buying a copy but the limited edition of 6000 copies sold out in a fortnight or so, if I can recall. Then every month or so afterward, the other five albums would appear, and as soon as I saw what was being released, they seemed to have sold out very quickly. Leaving a much larger mass of disappointed fans in their wake as a frightful amount of the copies that did sell, were strictly for flipping in the heated aftermarket.
By the time the last one happened earlier this year, it was a blink-and-you-miss-it phenomenon. I recall getting the email from davidbowie.com and checking into to see what the contents were on the last one and it was already sold out. If you happened to live west of the GMT time zone and were concerned with sleeping, tough luck for you! Well, at least the Bowie Estate® has acknowledged that the while affair was handled badly. Inasmuch as now the full set of six albums is being repressed and interested parties are being asked to indicate their interest; perhaps as a means of gauging how many to manufacture this time instead of just pulling a number out of a hat. And just what are the goods of offer?
David Bowie: Ouvrez Le Chien [Live Dallas 95] – UK – CD 
- Look Back In Anger 4:36
- The Hearts Filthy Lesson 5:16
- The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (As Beauty) 5:22
- I Have Not Been To Oxford Town 4:27
- Outside 4:35
- Andy Warhol 3:40
- Breaking Glass 3:43
- The Man Who Sold The World 3:41
- We Prick You 4:19
- I’m Deranged 6:18
- Joe The Lion 3:58
- Nite Flights 6:28
- Under Pressure 4:07
- Teenage Wildlife 7:02
This is one I would like to pre-order this time. It is basically the same dour set we saw and loved in Atlanta, though recorded in Dallas instead. My wife was excited to see “Andy Warhol” and it was a stunning version, but my thrills were more for “Breaking Glass” and “Joe the Lion.” Amazingly, “Night Flights” is my very favorite song from “Black Tie White Noise,” yet I cannot really remember anything about its performance in this sterling set, which is why I particularly want to get this one.
David Bowie: No Trendy Réchauffé (Live Birmingham 95) – UK – CD 
- Look Back In Anger 4:44
- Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) 5:20
- The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (As Beauty) 5:08
- The Man Who Sold The World 3:39
- Hallo Spaceboy 5:19
- I Have Not Been To Oxford Town 4:22
- Strangers When We Meet 5:00
- Breaking Glass 3:52
- The Motel 6:30
- Jump They Say 3:37
- Teenage Wildlife 6:41
- Under Pressure 4:33
- Moonage Daydream 5:38
- We Prick You 4:22
- Hallo Spaceboy (Version 2) 6:18
The UK set has some interesting differences, but not enough to make me forget about “Nite Flghts.” Though the also very Scott Walker track “The Motel” was maybe the next best thing. I don’t need both.
David Bowie: Liveandwell.com – UK – CD 
- I’m Afraid Of Americans 5:19
- The Hearts Filthy Lesson 5:34
- I’m Deranged 7:07
- Hallo Spaceboy 5:17
- Telling Lies 5:20
- The Motel 5:45
- The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (As Beauty) 5:49
- Battle For Britain (The Letter) 4:35
- Seven Years In Tibet 6:20
- Little Wonder 6:10
- Pallas Athena 8:42
- V-2 Schneider 6:51
This smorgasbord of live versions from the “Earthling” tour was easy to pass up. I already had it since it was issued in 2000 since I was a member of Bowienet, who were my first ISP! This live CD was exclusively for Bowienet subscribers at the time. The difference here was that the four remixes at the end of that disc were removed, and instead, the live tech house versions of “Pallas Athena” and “V2 Schneider” that were part of that tour [and issued separately at the time under the cheeky non-du-disque Tao Jones Index] have now found a fitting home on this set. Maybe I’ll opt for the strategic download option there.
David Bowie: Look At The Moon! (Live Phoenix Festival 97) – UK – CD 
- Quicksand 4:50
- The Man Who Sold The World 3:35
- Driftin’ Blues / The Jean Genie 5:36
- I’m Afraid Of Americans 5:14
- Battle For Britain (The Letter) 4:35
- Fashion 3:40
- Seven Years In Tibet 6:47
- Fame 4:18
- Looking For Satellites 5:18
- Under Pressure 4:03
- The Hearts Filthy Lesson 5:14
- Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) 5:23
- Hallo Spaceboy 5:14
- Little Wonder 6:07
- Dead Man Walking 4:11
- White Light / White Heat 3:54
- O Superman 9:20
- Stay 7:41
Now this one is definitely a must hear! It consists of 18 tracks. Exactly half of the set we saw, but still salted with deep cuts that were not on the “Liveandwell.com” set, which had a more contemporary focus. The acoustic “Quicksand” that opened the set was a stunner and I can’t wait to hear “Stay” again! And you could have knocked us over with a feather when he began playing “O, Superman!”
David Bowie: Something In The Air (Live Paris 99) – UK – CD 
- Life On Mars? 5:28
- Thursday’s Child 5:37
- Something In The Air 5:22
- Word On A Wing 6:37
- Can’t Help Thinking About Me 3:37
- China Girl 4:05
- Always Crashing In The Same Car 3:41
- Survive 4:28
- Drive-In Saturday 4:56
- Changes 4:58
- Seven 4:24
- Repetition 3:41
- I Can’t Read 6:34
- The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell 4:26
- Rebel Rebel 4:13
We loved the “Hours…” album when it came out and that got us so interested in David Bowie again, we finally bought the albums we had not heard yet to complete the collection! Yes, that means the horrible mid-80s EMI work, but also the transcendent “Buddha Of Suburbia,” which transfixed me with its questing, innovative character. It was so much more than a hastily knocked out TV soundtrack, I was stunned that Bowie had managed to bury his best 90s album.
But one thing about the “Hours…” album was the point that it had no accompanying tour. Reeves Gabrels parted ways with Bowie after its recording and there were a handful of promotional gigs to promote the disc; this being one of them. I can’t quite convince myself to buy into this one even though the set list is good, and I should be interested in hearing material from an album I liked so much played live. Can someone convince me?
David Bowie: At The Kit Kat Klub (Live New York 99) – UK – CD 
- Life On Mars? 4:42
- Thursday’s Child 5:16
- Something In The Air 4:49
- China Girl 4:09
- Can’t Help Thinking About Me 3:00
- Always Crashing In The Same Car 3:46
- Survive 4:32
- Stay 6:34
- Seven 4:00
- Changes 3:54
- The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell 4:09
- I’m Afraid Of Americans 5:11
Finally, there was a promotional CD of this set at NYC’s Kit Kat Klub that like the “Liveandwell.com” disc, is getting a wider airing to find its wider audience this time around. This seemed like even less than the last disc. And it was recorded at the Kit Kat Klub. A further strike against it for the name alone. Nope. I have better uses to put my $15.95 to.
So those are the albums coming back on offer again soon. They sold out [and then some] the first time and if you have an interest, the David Bowie website is taking names and emails to let interested parties know when they can be pre-ordered once more. The News page of the site lists next Monday, June 7th as the cutoff date to register your interest. The actual page in the site to do so says June 14th instead. If I were you I’d assume the earlier date is the real cutoff to avoid disappointment. There will be CD and LPs of each title with the [sold separately] box depicted at at the top of the post to hold the whole shebang. I’ve already let them know I am up for ordering the two CDs I want, so now it’s your turn. You know the drill. Hit that button below.