Tuesday, 28 August 2018

David Bowie - Live At Hammersmith Odeon (1973)


 

This was the one where David Bowie the rock’n’roll star, “Ziggy Stardust”, left it all behind, to begin a chameleon-like journey through many styles of image and music.

There is a slightly less raw, hissy sound on this in comparison to “Santa Monica”. It would appear to have been remastered considerably more successfully,  but that previous show from September 1972 had such a huge, punky energetic appeal that it was difficult to top, to be honest. The band just seemed on better form that night. This is ten months’ hard touring later, and it shows a bit. It is the legendary “last ever show” (until the next one with a new band!). The Spiders, of course, do not know this, so when Bowie announces it at the end it really is one of those rock moments of genuine shock. However, this includes material from “Aladdin Sane” so there are added benefits, and yes, the sound is much better. I keep changing my opinion between the two. Maybe the best thing to do is treat them both separately and stop comparing them against each other.

The album kicks off with the usual rocking “Hang On To Yourself”. “Ziggy Stardust” is nice and bassy here, less tinny than “Santa Monica”. It is powerful, dominant version of the iconic song. Mick Ronson Trevor Bolder, Mick Woodmansey and Bowie all on top form. With “God-given ass..” indeed. This is one of the versions of songs that I prefer here to “Santa Monica”, I think. It is a treat to hear a fully rocking “Watch That Man” (with Bowie’s voice high in the mix this time!). Mike Garson makes his presence felt on piano too, far more than at Santa Monica.

“The Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud” is played far more rockingly than on “Space Oddity”, Ronson’s electric lead guitar enhancing it considerably. There is a slight volume drop while the track merges into “All The Young Dudes”, but by the time Bowie launches into a snatch of “Oh! You Pretty Things” all is fine again. I am not a fan of these live medleys, though, preferring full versions of the songs. Queen used to do it too, irritatingly. Thankfully, “Moonage Daydream” is back to full-on, extended rock. It is just so god to hear Bowie rock with and band like this. I know he did with Tin Machine, but this was his rock persona at its very best. “Changes” is just so floor-shakingly powerful, it blows you away.

“Space Oddity”, thankfully, now uses keyboards to replicate the spaceship noise, unlike on “Santa Monica” and the results are much better. Bowie has to tell the raucous crowd to “be quiet” at the beginning of the moving “My Death”. Funnily enough, you had an “interval” with some piped classical music before the band come back with an absolutely stonking “Cracked Actor”, with madcap harmonica and wailing guitars. It is good to hear this, and the three other tracks from “Aladdin Sane” being played here by their original band, and so enthusiastically too.  “Time” is incredible - atmospheric piano and backing vocals and one hell of a huge thumping bass from Trevor Bolder. Ronson’s guitar is excellent too. Now, we enter Led Zeppelin territory with fifteen-minute “The Width Of A Circle”. As much as I love the Santa Monica one, I think I love this one even more, with its rhythmic percussion (bongos in there somewhere, played by I am not sure). The guitar on it is simply outstanding.

After the band introductions come a barnstorming “Let’s Spend The Night Together” and straight into a similar “Suffragette City”. It is sad to think that the band are playing this for the last time, yet they don’t know it. “White Light, White Heat” chugs and rocks, pulsatingly. Then comes the gobsmacking speech, the crowd suddenly goes quiet and a no doubt bemused band ploughing their way through “Rock’n’Roll Suicide”. Bizarrely, Elgar’s “Land Of Hope And Glory” plays over the p.a. Goodbye, Ziggy. Thanks and all that. He’ll be back, sooner than expected.

In many more guises.

A-

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