BOWIE BLACKOUT

Live albums often spark discussion amongst rock fans. Are they a fascinating insight into the artist as experienced in concert? A contractual filler for the record company? Sometimes both? Maybe it depends on how big a fan you are. Being a huge David Bowie fan, I was excited by the release (originally RSD 2018) of Welcome To The Blackout (Live London ’78), a 3LP set that covers the same tour as 1978’s Stage. But there was a question, too. Does this offering add anything to the earlier album?

Well for starters, there are more songs. Performances of “Be My Wife” and “Sound and Vision” (both from Low), “Stay” (Station To Station), “Rebel Rebel” (Diamond Dogs) and “Suffragette City” (Ziggy Stardust) add depth to the set and demonstrate how versatile Bowie was when it came to keeping his own songs alive and vibrant.

Of course he is helped along by a fabulous band. Joining Carlos Alomar on guitar is Adrian Belew (King Crimson/Frank Zappa), while Simon House (Hawkwind) adds violin. Utopia’s keyboard player Roger Powell layers the synthesizer textures essential to the songs from “Heroes” and Low. No wonder David sounds proud and grateful when he introduces the band.

The live sound is top notch. With recording supervised by long-time associate Tony Visconti and production by Bowie himself there is an immediacy to the sound such that if you pump it up, you could almost believe you were at Earls Court in mid-1978.

There are so many highlights across the six sides of this album that it’s unfair to single tracks out. Having said that, the Ziggy Stardust side is a hoot. The band steams through this older material like they are having an absolute blast… and we get to ride the wave. The audience is mixed way back, but you can hear them lapping up this classic Bowie.

If you love 1976’s Station To Station, the series of three songs late in the concert are a delight, especially the slow-build excitement of the title track and a muscled-up “Stay”. For those perhaps less familiar with the material on “Heroes” and Low, the inclusion of instrumentals in addition to songs would be an eye-opener. Strong material, delivered here with class and subtlety in a concert setting—no small achievement.

All in all, Welcome To The Blackout (Live London ’78) packs a whole lotta Bowie into its six sides. It will certainly entertain both fanatics and newcomers. And regarding the obvious question of whether you need Stage as well as Welcome To The Blackout, the answer should be obvious by now: get this, but if you come across Stage, get that too. You can never have too much Bowie.

This post first appeared at Discrepancy Records in November 2018. It is reposted here by kind permission.

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22 comments

  1. Nice review and thanks for the reminder of it. I’ve always liked what I heard from “Stage” and enjoyed the mixture of material on it. Maybe I will seek that out on CD to listen to in my car.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a generous serving of live David, Rick. Hope you can locate it!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. kingclover · · Reply

    I’ve heard this a few times and I like it about the same as Stage, except the few extra songs make it a little better I guess. I like the older songs best on these albums. But of course nothing comes close to David Live, as far as I’m concerned. It’s one of his top albums and it’s one of the all-time classic live albums. Even if it is a little saxophone-mad. And his hoarse voice makes his singing even better, not worse, as far as I’m concerned. All the people who don’t like it are out of their fucking minds. They’re probably the same people who don’t like Pin Ups either. And it’s even greater now since they put out the version with more songs from Aladdin Sane and stuff. I noticed on Spotify a while ago how many different live albums he’s got now. It’s unbelievable. There must be about 15 of them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, when a major artist dies the archival process goes up a gear or two. Quite agree with David Live. I could never quite get why some seemed to dismiss it. And as you say, the re-issue with added material makes it even better!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. kingclover · · Reply

        I counted 23 live albums just on Spotify alone. Jeez. And who knows how many more there are??

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A whole live album with Belew on guitar does sound pretty cool….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You bet. He came to Bowie’s band straight from playing with Zappa! (A factoid you were probably well aware of, G.)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Some great stuff on this album. When it comes to David Bowie, I primarily dig his glam rock Ziggy Stardust period, so I’m as happy as a clam to see songs like “Five Years”, “Soul Love”, “Ziggy Stardust” and “Suffragette City”. And of course “Rebel Rebel”. Even tunes I’m less fond of by comparison like “Sound And Vision” and “Fame” sound pretty good.

    Ohhh, wham bam thank you man! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s great Christian. Yes, most Bowie fans have some special songs they love hearing in any setting! A couple of mine are from Station To Station — the title track and TVC15.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Did you ever get a chance to see him live?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Just once. When the Serious Moonlight tour came to Melbourne. It was good, even in an outdoor football stadium with seats 1.7 km from the stage*.
          * Approximately

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Cool. I had to look up the tour and it appears that one supported the “Let’s Dance” album. Even though it had a pretty commercial ’80s sound, I still like it overall.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Like the concerts we were talking about earlier, the Serious Moonlight tour (and yes, spot on, it’s a line from the single “Let’s Dance”) covered lots of ground.
              I recall “Cracked Actor” (from Aladdin Sane) beginning with Bowie seated in an armchair in mid-air, addressing a skull (as in “Alas poor Yorick…” before slowing descending (still seated) to the stage.
              The Wiki page has a lot of interesting info on the tour, I see. Though it doesn’t mention how Melbourne fans with unallocated tickets queued for twelve hours to get the ‘good’ cheap seats!

              Liked by 1 person

  5. Your opening paragraph tickles my memory of so many arguments with friends over the years about live albums. I’ve always really liked them, but my unscientific guess from my friends sample is that only half feel the same way. It’s an interesting study, at least to me.

    Thanks for highlighting this album because I’m not familiar with it (owing to the fact that Bowie has always been seriously unrepresented in my own collection). But the mention of Adrian Belew has definitely got me curious. – Marty

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  6. Well I read this and now I’ve ordered David Live. Thanks. Of course you can never have too much David.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And then I bought Stage.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. kingclover · · Reply

        ‘nother good one. You’ll like that one too.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Bravo! A feast of Bowie!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. A friend put it onto a pen drive for me and I thought it was pretty ‘meh’, but I haven’t really given it much time – I think that’s the difference between free music and music you buy yourself, I find myself far more inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt and give it another go, if the physical product is there with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As Don McLean sang (not at an NRA convention), “the more you pay, the more it’s worth”.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely. It’s a little like an old adage in the antiques trade, the more a customer pays for an item the less they are inclined to question its’ worth.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Sometimes the same seems to apply to “highly collectible” LPs!

          Liked by 1 person

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