Saturday, 13 October 2018

David Bowie - Live In Montreal: Glass Spider Tour (1987)




1987’s “Glass Spider” Tour, was like the “Never Let Me Down” album that it promoted, a much-derided creature. I caught the tour at the old Cardiff Arms Park and have to say I really enjoyed it. Nevertheless, a performer like David Bowie was always going to give us something that was good, despite the lesser quality of some of the material and the pretentiousness of the whole concept.

This is an enjoyable concert recording, from Montreal, with truly excellent sound. The intro guitar noise/“shut up” plea/rap samples and snippet of “Up The Hill Backwards” was not convincing though, sounding like something from a Madonna gig. “Glass Spider” is performed well enough, however, as is the always impressive “Day In Day Out”. The relatively ordinary “Bang Bang” is played with verve, vitality and vigour, coming across better live than it does on the album. The opening to “Absolute Beginners” is also sightly blighted by some Madonna-style sampling, but it soon kicks in to the recognisable “ba-ba-ba-oooh” vocal riff.

“Loving The Alien” is superb, with some sumptuous, sensual  saxophone in it and a powerful, sonorous Bowie vocal. There is some impressve drum/guitar interplay at the end, with a great guitar solo from Peter Frampton. “China Girl” is done pretty straight and, thankfully, “Rebel Rebel” reverts to being guitar-driven and riffy, as it should be. I do wish they had taken that “li-li-li” bit out of their interpretations of it, though.

“Fashion” has a completely pointless taped vocal introduction (or maybe it was live) with some backing vocalist wittering on about the Norse god Odin, for some unfathomable reason. One thing is for sure, the gods of pretension were walking the earth at this time. When it eventually breaks into the song it is as you would expect, but the synthesisers are laid on thick. There is some searing guitar present here, it has to be said. “Scary Monsters” rocks, big time. The band set up here suits the material from this period.

It is great to hear “All The Madmen” but why yet another strange vocal sampled intro? It obviously was de rigeur. I don’t remember feeling at the time that it was particularly strange. The interpretation is unfortunately synthesiser-dominated, but it is good to hear the song anyway. Most of the crowd probably hadn’t got a clue what the song was, or where it came from, judging by the distinctly muted post-song applause. “Never Let Me Down” is another cut from the album of the same name that is better here than in its original form. Here it is nice and clunky, with Frampton’s industrial guitar to the fore.

Seventies favourite “Big Brother” is given an outing. (I remember him playing this, one of the things that stuck in my memory). “The Ever Circling Skeletal Family” is enhanced by using the saxophone. “87 And Cry” rocks, and Frampton’s guitar is outstanding but again the synthesisers overwhelm it. At one point, Bowie sounds uncannily like Bob Dylan - “you saw him hanging on the enemy” bit. The guitar at the end sounds like Brian May in Queen. “Heroes” is done really well here too, much better than in 1983. The saxophone adds great atmosphere to the evocative “Sons Of The Silent Age” and it is surprisingly well done, considering it came from the bleak “Heroes” period as opposed to this jaunty eighties era. It is the only appearance of this song on “official” live albums.

“Time Will Crawl” is impressive - rocking and muscular. It is simply a great track. Great trumpet solo on it too. Then there is my favourite - “Young Americans” performed as well as I have heard it done live. “Beat Of Your Drum” is solid, guitar-driven and exactly as it should be, so, Heaven thank us, is a searing “The Jean Genie”. Great to hear it played bluesily and straight, as opposed to the slowed-down “David Live” version. “Let’s Dance” is as is a powerful “Fame”. Wonderful to hear "Time” played so well. “Blue Jean” and “Modern Love” finish the gig off in rousing, rocking fashion.

This is an enjoyable live album and, like 1983, it is good to hear a slightly different set list, but the worst excesses of the eighties put it below others, unfortunately.

B-

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