Last week, I reveled in a live recording of Bowie’s show from Pirate’s Bay, Florida on November 17 1972 and last night, I revisited the show from Cleveland that took place just over a week later. Some of you may know this concert via the “Va Va Va Voom” bootleg which was released on the Australian Savage Hippo label back in 1998. This version I have is from a different source (Ziggy’s Invasion Of America from 1999) and the sound is even better than the preceding release from a year before. As far as Ziggy era recordings go, this one is easily in the top 5. With very few if any hiccups, the November 25th recording makes a good night on on the hi hi. The set list is pretty much identical to all shows from this leg of the tour and once again, as with other recordings from around this time, Bowie is extraordinarily chatty all the way through. The spoken intro to Drive-In Saturday is more audible on this recording as well. Perhaps the most audible of all the recordings I have heard from around this time. What’s more, Bowie’s speech to introduce the song is also quite clear. He reeled out similar jargon at other concerts regarding tape recorders to leave (obviously, they didn’t) and the finer details of where he wrote the song and the story behind the lyrics. I sometimes wonder why Drive-In Saturday didn’t appear more in the live repertoire over the years? A shame really.
There was a second show the following night, November 26th. Both nights were sold out. These followed an appearance in New Orleans on the 22nd and would be followed by a concert in Pittsburgh two days later. One thing is for sure, there would have been some interesting sights on the bus journeys between cities. This was after all, America in 1972 at her red neck best. Bowie had also begun this tour in Cleveland at the much smaller Music Hall on September 22 which held around 3,000 punters. Within two and half months, the new shows were playing to over 10,000 people each night. A lot had changed in a very short space of time. Essentially, the bigger the hype, the larger the demand and with clever management, the hype behind Bowie soared with every passing week on the road.
The audience are extremely enthusiastic all the way through the show with much banter between the crowd and their master. It’s what live shows should always be about. In later years, Bowie would often utter a dozen words or less during his concerts. Andy Warhol sounds particularly inspiring on this recording. Waiting For The Man & The Jean Genie are both rocking show stoppers and, as always on this tour, Space Oddity attracts lots of attention due to it being his best known song at this time. I do wonder if Bowie had any other numbers in the pipeline that he considered bringing to the stage aside from Drive-In Saturday and The Jean Genie. Both tracks come over raw and fresh which is an exciting element to song writing and performing. He also strikes some nice vocals during Changes which concludes with a beautiful piano solo from Mike Garson who was, at the time, new to the Bowie set up.
Bowie pauses after Five Years to ask members of the audience who were dancing in the aisles to sit down in order to make the evening more enjoyable for everyone. This request is met by a loud cheer. From here, he launches into a beautiful rendition of Space Oddity. Following up, Bowie asks the crowd, “What’s been happening with you?” His question is met by thousands of multiple answers and he then reminds the crowd that Cleveland was the first show performed in America. The loudest cheer of the night goes up.
I have always wondered what sort of recording equipment was ferried in to record this show. For 1972, it truly is captured in outstanding quality. As many of you may know, a lot of the show from the early 70’s tours sounded as if they were recorded from the depths of the toilet at the back of the venue. For a good example of this, track down a copy of the show in Leeds on June 29 1973. Sadly, it’s not the only show from this tour that sound quite poor. If you have not listened to this show before, I can’t stress how important it is that you go and find a quality download or listen to the link I have provided here. You most definitely won’t be sorry.
SETLIST: Hang Onto Yourself/Ziggy Stardust/Changes/The Supermen/Life On Mars?/Five Years/Space Oddity/Andy Warhol/Drive-In Saturday/The Width Of A Circle/John, I’m Only Dancing/Moonage Daydream/Band Intro/Waiting For The Man/The Jean Genie/Suffragette City/Rock’n’Roll Suicide