Forget Stage, David Live Is Bowie’s Greatest Concert Album


  • You’ll find solid Double Plus (A++) grades on all four sides of this Bowie classic
  • One of our favorite live recordings – a great overview of Bowie’s career through 1974
  • 1984, Rebel Rebel, Sweet Thing and Rock & Roll With Me come alive in performance
  • A-List players of the day deliver sonic treats, including multiple horn players, multiple percussionists, all-male chorus background vocals, the searing fuzzed-out guitar leads of Earl Slick, piano and Mellotron by Mike Garson, and the amazing Herbie Flowers on bass

When you listen to an incredible pressing of this Bowie classic, you will have no trouble picturing yourself front row center. And the great thing about a record like this is that you can be in the front row of this very concert whenever you want!

The other top live album is, of course, Waiting For Columbus, and the two have much in common. Most importantly, the songs played live on both albums are consistently better than their studio versions. (This is especially true on the Little Feat album. Little Feat was not a studio band and their live arrangements — with the Tower of Power horns — just murder those created in the studio.)

For us audiophiles, the other reason to own a Hot Copy of David Live or Waiting For Columbus is that the sound is much improved over most of the studio albums in which the material was originally found. Have you ever heard a good sounding Diamond Dogs?

But David Live is full of great sounding material from the album. 1984 is much better here than on the original album. Rebel Rebel, Sweet Thing and Rock & Roll With Me also come alive in performance. They rock!

The Sound

The best copies have Live Rock and Roll Energy like you will not believe. The band is ON FIRE. These are the A-List players of the day and they gel like a band that’s been together for years. The sonic treats include multiple horn players (David Sanborn KILLS on almost every track, and the baritone sax and oboe are rendered beautifully ) and multiple percussionists, all-male chorus background vocals, the searing fuzzed-out guitar leads of Earl Slick, piano and Mellotron by Mike Garson, the amazing Herbie Flowers on bass — the list goes on. Why the critics don’t give this album the respect it so obviously deserves is completely beyond me.


Side One

Rebel Rebel 
Moonage Daydream 
Sweet Thing

Side Two

Changes Track Commentary

We learned from our shootout that if the first chorus of Changes sounds gritty and grainy, the rest of the song is simply not going to work, and probably the whole side will be a mess. On the copies that are cut super-clean, the chorus sounds smooth and natural. Few copies are going to give you that sound.

Suffragette City
Aladdin Sane
All the Young Dudes
Cracked Actor

Side Three

Rock & Roll With Me
Watch That Man
Knock On Wood
Diamond Dogs

Side Four

Big Brother
Width of a Circle
Jean Genie
Rock & Roll Suicide

Wikipedia Excerpts

David Live is David Bowie’s first official live album, originally released by RCA in 1974. Recorded on the initial leg of Bowie’s US tour supporting Diamond Dogs in July of that year (the second leg, a more soul-oriented affair following recording sessions for the bulk of Young Americans, would be renamed ‘Philly Dogs’), it is generally held by critics, fans, and Bowie himself alike to be a commercial stopgap lacking in energy.

The album catches Bowie in transition from the Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane glam-rock era of his career to the ‘plastic soul’ of Young Americans. While the cover featured a picture Bowie in his latest soul threads – baggy trouser suit complete with shoulder pads and suspenders from November 1974 – the music was recorded in July of that year when he was showcasing his two most recent studio albums of original material, Diamond Dogs and Aladdin Sane, as well as selected favourites from Ziggy Stardust and earlier.

The tour was Bowie’s most ambitious to date, featuring a giant set designed to evoke “Hunger City”, the post-apocalyptic setting for Diamond Dogs, and his largest band, led by Michael Kamen. For “Space Oddity” (recorded at the time but not released until the album’s 2005 reissue) Bowie sang using a radio microphone disguised as a telephone whilst being raised and lowered above the stage by a cherry picker crane.

Although various issues of the album date the recordings, at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia (actually Upper Darby), from 11-12 July or 12-15 July, 1974, a more recent estimate suggests they took place over 8-12 July. Capturing the music on tape was itself problematic; most of the backing vocals, as well as the saxophone, needed to be overdubbed in the studio later (a fact noted on the original album sleeve as well as the reissue) due to the fact that the performers were often off-mike.

The finished album has been criticised for Bowie’s “obsessive” rearrangements of the songs and for the strained quality of his vocals. Opinion of the playing is also divided, despite the presence of such acclaimed guests as Michael Kamen, Earl Slick and David Sanborn, as well as Flowers, Mike Garson and Tony Newman from the Diamond Dogs sessions. However some of the interpretations earned praise, such as the upbeat jazz-Latin version of “Aladdin Sane” and the atmospheric instrumental additions to “The Width of a Circle” from The Man Who Sold The World. The record is also notable for including Bowie’s first release of “All the Young Dudes,” a song originally given to the band Mott The Hoople for their 1971 album of the same name.

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