“Look At The Moon!” Saw Bowie Curating His Live Set With A Crack Team [pt. 1]

“Look At The Moon! [Live Phoenix Festival ’97]” was a snapshot of the very next tour David Bowie undertook for the “Earthling” album of 1997. The same band as the 1995 “Outside” tour were here, though Carlos Alomar, George Simms, and Peter Schwartz were trimmed from the lineup. Given that “Earthling” was Bowie’s experimentation with Drum + Bass music, there were a lot of loops and sequences on the album which were replicated with samplers and sequencers. In 1997 maybe a laptop was finally the thing, but the music here was leaning particularly hard on some form of playback to support the conceits of the current album. The caliber of the players who were live would have to make up for the lack of spontaneity to make it interesting.

Parlophone | CD | 2021 | DBBLACD 95994

David Bowie: Look At The Moon! – 2xCD [2021]

Disc 1

  1. Quicksand
  2. The Man Who Sold The World
  3. Driftin’ Blues/The Jean Genie
  4. I’m Afraid Of Americans
  5. Battle For Britain (The Letter)
  6. Fashion
  7. Seven Years In Tibet
  8. Fame
  9. Looking For Satellites
  10. Under Pressure

Disc 2

  1. The Hearts Filthy Lesson
  2. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
  3. Hallo Spaceboy
  4. Little Wonder
  5. Dead Man Walking
  6. White Light/White Heat
  7. O Superman
  8. Stay

As with the show we saw in Ft. Lauderdale, the set opened up with Bowie playing his “The Man Who Sold The World” deep cut “Quicksand” with himself playing an acoustic guitar for accompaniment at first. Eventually Mike Garson added string synths to fatten up the sound, as did bassist Gail Ann Dorsey’s superb backing vocal harmonies. Having the full album roar in for the final climactic chorus. It was an unexpected and fidelitous rendition of a song few expected to hear.

It was followed by the now prescient downtempo, pseudo Drum + Bass arrangement of “The Man Who Sold The World” but the song’s climax had telltale key changes form Bowie before veering off into foreign lands with a sitar solo from Reeves Gabrels making the hint of saffron on the earlier recording a full bodied vibe.

A few bars of an acoustic “Driftin’ Blues'” on guitars fed into the inevitable “The Jean Genie” given a rousing rendition that emphasized its origins while Garson injected random wave synth burbles just below the surface. The Bowie classic had an excited Bowie exhort, “Look at the moon!” thus giving this volume its title.

The grimy, aggressive “I’m Afraid Of Americans” always sounded every inch like a part of the previous album, “1:Outside,” so it was always the odd one out in the context of “Earthling.” The music bed for this one was all canned for the verses; only letting the band rip on the chorus. The jittery “Battle For Britain [The Letter]” pushed deeper into that trait of Bowie’s attempt to mate Rock and Drum + Bass and live that meant a lot of samples and sequences. With even BVs being playback where Bowie was being multiplexed in the sound. But wow, Garson was stunning me on the piano solo!

It was a real pleasure hearing Gabrels and Dorsey tearing into the re-think of “Fashion.” The minimalism of the original 1980 arrangement being swapped for something packed a lot tighter with the funkiest sort of detail. Ms. Dorsey’s vocals with Bowie here were practically a duet; making her presence in the band doubly worthwhile.

I loved the lonely, bluesier take and the clean tone of Gabrels guitar in the intro to “Seven Years In Tibet.” I’m so used to hearing his instrument roar and wail that it was a surprise to hear something that lyrical from him. But the song’s chorus showed him unleashing all of the power we expect from him. This was followed by the “Is It Any Wonder” re-think of “Fame” that never quite convinced me. Though this sounded better than other versions I’d heard. “Looking For Satellites,” based on a loop of Bowie saying non sequitur words was a faithful re-creation of the album, but given a point of interest in Gabrels’ guitar solo in the middle eight that felt like licking a 4-pack of 9-volt batteries as it spiraled ever upward into a high-energy singularity of sound.

Next: …Disc Two Awaits

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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