The Bowie Concert Tape Files: The Forum, Los Angeles – 4 April 1978

It’s been quite a few months now since I last explored the concert tape files so perhaps it’s time to return and explore a little more into Bowie’s back catalogue of concert recordings. Today, I’m going back to 1978, more specifically, 4 April and the show recorded at The Forum in LA. This is a show which has been around the bootleg circuit for a very long time known as “Slaughter In The Air” and I secured my own copy for around $40 in 1995. It’s a double vinyl pressing that was originally captured by known bootlegger, Vicky Vinyl.

Back in the 70’s, there was a band of regular concert goers who captured multiple concerts at the same venues from all the big acts in the day. The Forum in LA was a popular choice to record from due to its size which made concert tape recorders particularly difficult to spot. So what of the show itself? Let’s begin shall we?

Warszawa is missing from the start which is a shame as it is one of the standout numbers from the tour. I mean, what better way to open a Bowie concert than with a beautiful instrumental from Low? So, we start out with “Heroes” and navigate our way through the rest of the concert without any serious hiccups which is nice for a 1978 recording. In some ways, the recording can be a little frustrating because it’s been bootlegged in a venue which is renowned for passing off a slight echo feel during playback. You can really feel this during Sense of Doubt.

As with all recordings from this tour, there is always audible background conversations going on throughout many of the slow instrumental numbers. One can only imagine the people talking were at the show for the more well known parts of the set list so hearing tracks like Art Decade must have been anything but their cup of tea. It’s a firm reminder however as to why Bowie was always a sublime live performer thanks to his “not giving two fucks” attitude when putting together his live shows.

Breaking Glass feels extraordinarily funky on this recording. It’s still early days on the tour so things have not become too repetitive just yet. It’s perhaps one of his most underrated songs from the vast cannon from his back catalogue yet still managed to appear on a few tours thankfully. There is very little to no interaction between artist and the audience throughout the entire concert which gives off a feeling of otherness. Almost as if the crowd are watching a cabaret performer from Berlin circa 1936 on a large screen. It’s an edgy and somewhat crafty performance all the way through.

As a bootleg, this show is most definitely one you can return to on multiple occasions and not tire of. I’ve not yet heard any other sourced recordings of the concert as there are with other shows from the 1978 tour but as I mentioned all the way back at the beginning, it would be great to have a recording that included Warszawa. Then again, perhaps we should be great full that we even have this recording to begin with. So here’s to you Vicki Vinyl! Thanks for your most lovely recording of David Bowie in 1978 at the LA Forum. Now, not being too greedy but, wouldn’t it be nice if a recording of the April 3rd show at The Forum became available?

SETLIST: “Heroes”/What In The World/Be My Wife/The Jean Genie/Blackout/Sense of Doubt/Speed Of Life/Breaking Glass/Beauty And The Beast/Fame/Five Years/Soul Love/Star/Hang Onto Yourself/Ziggy Stardust/Suffragette City/Rock’n’Roll Suicide/Art Decade/Station To Station/Stay/TVC 15/Rebel Rebel

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Born and raised in Sydney. Well travelled. I have a deep love for live theatre, music and the arts. Ohh, I may also have a deep love for Liverpool Football Club!

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