Next week marks 35 years since final rehearsals got underway for Bowie’s Serious Moonlight Tour in Dallas. It would turn out to be the end of the road for guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughn with chronic drug usage seeing him booted off the tour just weeks before the opening in Brussels the following month. Vaughn had brought his party hard wife along with a large entourage of clingers on to take advantage of any easy drugs available which led to conflict between the singer and the guitarist and there was only ever going to be one winner on that front. On short notice, Earl Slick was shipped in and saved the day but on these recordings of the dress rehearsals, you get Stevie Ray at his cutting edge (possibly due to his cocaine habit) best. And, you also get the added bonus of hearing some of the songs that didn’t make regular appearances throughout the tour. It’s a nice change hearing a “show” of sorts minus all the crowd noises allowing so much more of the “sound” from the stage to fall into your listening lines thanks to the recordings from the soundboard.
Another benefit of hearing tour rehearsals is not only the excited sound of a band about to take a new show on the road, but you also get the in between chats about how to play a chord, requests to change vocal range along with any number of thoughts and requests thrown out for discussion. It’s a fascinating insight into just how much Bowie likes to mold his performance and image. The band and back-up singers were all dressed immaculately to take stock of the new romantic phase that had gripped England and Europe in recent years. In part, the new romantic scene that had popped up in time for the 1980’s was down to Bowie’s influence. This was his chance to remind the chasing pack, lumbered on his coat tails of the reason they were all scoring hit singles and albums around the world to begin with. Two stage sets were constructed for the tour and each set weighed around 32 tons.
A lot of money was invested into the Serious Moonlight Tour with the expectations that the return would be huge. And it was. Personally, I feel a lot of this was down to the choice of songs. The Serious Moonlight Tour was a chance to showcase Bowie as a songwriter. A lot of the theatrics and pretension was stripped away to reveal a modern Frank Sinatra who could spend two hours crooning his way through an illustrious back catalogue whilst allowing a few gems from his biggest influences to slip in. One could call it the perfect concert mix. As a young fan over twenty years ago now, I could play the old VHS copy of the tour video to my parents and have them tapping along. With this tour being the beginning of Bowie’s self proclaimed “Phil Collins” period, it must have been nice to finally get some much deserved recognition? Sadly, the “Phil Collins” phase would linger perhaps 2 albums too long with Tonight, Never Let Me Down and conflicting Glass Spider Tour never really reaching any great heights despite the world wide 1987 tour being not as bad as the mainstream critics would have you believe.
I had not listened to these 1983 tour rehearsals in many years so it was good to pull them out again and rediscover what I loved about them in the first place. You know how it is when work, travel and other such road blocks to collecting pop up in the way? I have further tapes for tour rehearsals in 1987, 1990 and 1995 to go back to in the coming days and will post reviews of all those as well. It’s just a shame there are not more tour rehearsal sound board recording floating about. Would surely make for fascinating listening. In the meantime, sit back, relax and enjoy a sublime concert tape recording with a difference. You can find copies of these tour rehearsals at all the regular places. You know where they are.
SET LIST: TVC 15/Stay/The Jean Genie/Modern Love/Rock’n’Roll Star/Heroes/What In The World/Look Back In Anger/Joe The Lion/Wild Is The Wind/Golden Years/Fashion-Let’s Dance/Red Sails/Breaking Glass/Life On Mars?/Sorrow/Cat People (Putting Out Fire)/China Girl/Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)/Rebel Rebel/I Can’t Explain/White Light, White Heat/Station To Station/Cracked Actor/Ashes To Ashes/Space Oddity/Young Americans