Saturday, 13 October 2018

David Bowie - Live In Vancouver: Serious Moonlight Tour (1983)

Released as part of the “Loving The Alien” box set, this is live set from 1983 that has fine sound quality. It is good to finally get an “official” concert release from this period.

It is not, however, from Bowie’s finest period, musically or appearance-wise. This was the “Serious Moonlight” tour, with Bowie sporting that odd bleached-blonde foppy hairdo, powder blue suits and a golden suntan. Not his best look. It didn’t quite fit singing “Station To Station”.


1. Look Back In Anger
2. "Heroes"
3. What In The World
4. Golden Years
5. Fashion
6. Let's Dance
7. Breaking Glass
8. Life On Mars?
9. Sorrow
10. Cat People
11. China Girl
12. Scary Monsters
13. Rebel Rebel
14. White Light/White Heat
15. Station To Station
16. Cracked Actor
17. Ashes To Ashes
18. Space Oddity
19. Young Americans
20. Fame
21. Modern Love

I find the material is blighted somewhat by a keyboard-dominated eighties instrumentation. The saxophone swirling all over most of the numbers is even more ubiquitous than on “David Live”. Now, I love the saxophone, and it is fine here on “Sorrow” (nice to hear that live rarity) and actually enhances the “Low” tracks, “What In The World” and “Breaking Glass”, but, combined with swathes of eighties keyboards it gives us one of Bowie’s less impressive renditions of “Heroes”.

“Golden Years”, “Fashion” and “Let’s Dance” are all convincing, and, actually “Life On Mars”’ big production comes off too. “White Light/White Heat” is given a huge, horn-driven backing that makes Bowie’s band sound like Bruce Springsteen’s E St. Band in the “Tunnel Of Love” Miami Horns phase. This brass accompaniment is used on “Station To Station” which somewhat changes the previous stark, bleakness of the song. It was played much more convincingly in 1976 and 1978. Here it sounds like a big production number with wailing “wooh-wooh” backing vocals and punchy horns. For me, it doesn’t really work.

“Cracked Actor” is played in “David Live” style, virtually note perfect to that 1974 incarnation, with the saxophone riff replacing the original guitar. A huge success on this album, though, is “Ashes To Ashes”, which is the best performance on the album. The instrumental backing suits it perfectly, with that iconic keyboard riff reproduced impressively and Bowie’s vocal is sonorously brilliant here. “Space Oddity” surprised me, actually, it sounds great, with muscular drums and a stonking guitar solo.

It is so damn good to hear my favourite Bowie track, “Young Americans” played live. It is difficult to play live, I should imagine, but it is done so well here, with Bowie singing it wonderfully. It is played even better on the 1987 “Glass Spider” live album though. Here it starts with acoustic guitar in place of the iconic drum intro. On the 1987 one you get the drums. “Fame” is excellent, also suiting the current band, as is the closer, “Modern Love”.

Despite certain misgivings about the eighties instrumentation and presentation of the songs I still found it a really enjoyable live album.


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