Tuesday, 28 August 2018

David Bowie - Live At Santa Monica (1972)


 

This was an original US radio broadcast made available, eventually, for "official" release and exceptionally good it is too. Yes there is a rough and ready rawness to the sound quality, but that but adds to the appeal. It still sounds pretty good anyway - big, full and powerful, with well-highlighted bass and good stereo separation. Personally, I slightly prefer this recording from the "Spiders" era Bowie than the legendary "final gig" (see below), although I admittedly vacillate between the two.

"Hang On To Yourself" begins with a visceral, punky energy and a storming "Ziggy Stardust" continues in the same vein. Mick Ronson is on fire. "Changes" is clunkily rocking and vibrant, with Bowie on great vocal form. His voice is crystal clear at the beginning of "The Supermen" and when the "heavy" bit kicks in you can feel the power literally shaking your speakers, as if you were there. "Life On Mars?" suffers a little from hiss in the quiet passages, but no real matter, it is still an evocative performance. There is something beautifully energetic and raw about this show. "Five Years" has never been done better. Trevor Bolder's bass sounds wonderful, rumbling yet melodic.

"Space Oddity" is, unfortunately, marred by Bowie's woeful attempts to recreate the "rocket taking off" part by letting out a sonorous low moan. There are other vocal attempts and sound effects thrown in towards the end. By the end of this tour he performed the song far more successfully, augmented by synthesisers. "Andy Warhol" is excellent, however, with another killer bass line and some clear acoustic guitar from Bowie. Some great electric guitar from Ronson at the end. "My Death" is hauntingly powerful. "Angel or devil, I don't care...". Bowie sings these emotive words so movingly, so clearly. Great stuff. This songs suits Bowie so well.

"The Width Of A Circle" is an absolute tour de force, with a truly massive rock sound. Bowie was still a rock singer, in a rock band, even though he at times denies it. This is hard as he ever rocked, although he himself may have left the stage for a costume change while Ronson, Bolder and Woodmansey rocked out. Outrageously, thumpingly good. The Spiders briefly turned into Deep Purple. I have always loved the rocking, riffy Velvet Underground tribute "Queen Bitch" and it is played energetically here. "Moonage Daydream" has all the chunky, piledriving sound you would expect. "John, I'm Only Dancing", played in its original, rocking format, is a delight to hear. After the band introductions (I hadn't realised Mike Garson was already on board on piano), we get a slow burning, almost effortless "Waiting For the Man", with Bowie doing his best Lou Reed. Again, this is Bowie rocking with the best of them. The "brownstone building" bit sees him in complete control.

It is great to hear "The Jean Genie" played properly i.e full on rock, as opposed to the slowed-down "David Live" era version. This is by far the best live person of "Genie". "Suffragette City" is similarly definitive - frenetic and punky, just as it should be. The plaintive, emotional "Rock'n'Roll Suicide" closes the show, as usual, once again, it is powerful and convincing, with some huge guitar chops. Great album.

B+

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