David Bowie – No Trendy Rechauffe
(live Birmingham 95)
Out now and only available via David Bowie official store and Warner Music Group’s Dig! store.
When you go and see most legends it is usually a greatest hits set, with the occasional new number thrown in much to chagrin of the punters, but David Bowie never followed the pack.
This double album is the second of a series of six live records from the 1990s showcasing how good he was as a live performer, and instead of all the hits the Thin White Duke fills the set with tracks from his 1995 album Outside. So no Heroes, Ashes to Ashes or Ziggy playing guitar.
The more casual Bowie fan might have been pissed off. but his hardcore fans congregating for the last date on the Outside Tour at Birmingham’s NEC must have been delighted to see the all-star band on stage – including Carlos Alomar on guitar, Tin Machine’s Reeves Gabrels on lead guitar, Mike Garson holding the record for playing Bowie gigs with over 1000 on piano and latter stage of his career stalwart Gail Ann Dorsey on bass.
Now that’s a band who can play anything in any style you want, but for this incarnation Bowie asks them to be mainly a grungy garage band as they rip through tracks from an album that is his reunion with Brian Eno after they completed the legendary Berlin Trilogy days.
We Prick You from Outside sets the intellectual tone where a true artist mulls over the price of being completely open as he almost screams ‘tell the truth’ to the audience, and I Have Not Been to Oxford Town is as eerie as anything in his huge catalogue.
In contrast there’s a spirited run through a rare live version of Jump They Say, which strangely enough was Bowie’s last top 10 single, and is probably a really good pub quiz question. Equally rare live is a sensitive Strangers When We Meet telling the tale of two star-crossed lovers.
Dorsey drives the gnarly guitars on his co-write with Eno, The Voyeur of Little Destruction (As Beauty), as Mike Garson offers delicate piano, and they even have time to shoot a video for Hallo Spaceboy which has echoes on Nine Inch Nails.
It’s not all new stuff but Bowie being Bowie they get new treatments. So Low’s Breaking Glass is rocked up, and The Man Who Sold The World is slowed down with dreamy synths. From his days as global pop superstar Bowie chooses the longest track Teenage Wildlife from Scary Monsters, which feels like passing a baton to the new generation.
Ziggy’s Moonage Daydream gets the full treatment as Bowie really lets rip as Gabrels and Alomar tackle Mick Ronson’s massive riffs. In his later days onstage Bowie invited Dorsey to take on the Freddie bits of Under Pressure, which free of all the histrionics her soulful singing and smooth bass revel the song’s simple grandeur.
The gig is probably on a crappy bootleg, but this one off double album is produced by Bowie, and the quality is pin sharp as one of great performers takes an unexpected live turn, but one he pulls off thanks to a singular artistic vision that is much missed.
Words by Paul Clarke, you can see his author profile here.