I have to start off by stating that, at long last, Bowie’s people have got it spot on with a live album release. It’s been a thorn in his side for as long as one can remember going all the way back to the original David Live LP from 1974. With each release came cock ups galore. In recent times there have been some interesting releases which all came in varying degrees of success. 2008 saw the release of the sublime Santa Monica show from 1972 when Ziggy was only just starting to hit his stride. Unfortunately, the release was floored with cuts and edits galore. Two years later, we were served up another classic show from 1976. Like it’s predecessor, Santa Monica, the live show from Nassau in early ’76 had edits which included almost the entire drum solo being deleted from Panic In Detroit! Now, I ask you this? Which mentally deranged idiot thought that this would be a good idea? Last year, as part of the Record Store Day releases, we were served up Cracked Actor on triple vinyl. It was the first time I had heard an officially released live Bowie album and walked away after the first listening feeling like they had finally nailed it. Hell, it only took Bowie 40 plus years to finally release a full and complete live record the way it should be.
In 1978, Bowie released Stage, a decent live offering that was ruined by a mixed up running order, poor mixing and songs missing. In 2005, they went some way to restoring credit for the LP by going back to the original running order and mixing the crowd back into the show and adding two previously unreleased number in Be My Wife and Stay. In 2017, they went one further by also including The Jean Genie and Suffragette City. This meant that the original 1978 release of 17 tracks moved up to 22 in 2017. What more could they do to improve on this? Welcome To The Blackout!
It’s already being considered one of the best live Bowie releases from his cannon of work. There are 24 tracks all up, the show is mixed beautifully in its original running order and captures elements of the show not previously heard on either live releases or bootlegs from the tour. In a few months, it will be released on CD and available on iTunes and Spotify however, for the time being, we can all enjoy a wonderful vinyl rip that is available on YouTube in full.
Right from the get go with Warszawa, you can feel the warmth of the show with all the instruments high in the mix. The crowd can be heard as clear as day and you already know you are in for a fantastic ride. Bowie seems quite eager to please and is high on energy. At the time, these were his first live performances at Earls Court since the fiasco that was the Ziggy show in May 1973, some five years prior. The sound this time around is much better and thankfully for us fans, both nights were recorded by the mobile RCA unit which is why we have what we have today. The title of the album comes from Bowie’s own mouth as he introduces the song, Blackout with the words, “Welcome to the blackout!”. Clever innit? David Hemmings was on hand to film both nights and perhaps we may even see a full concert film release in the coming years?
A personal highlight of this recording has to be TVC 15. For the first time, you can clearly hear all the talk during the intro to the song. This is something that has eluded previous official releases and many bootlegs. The track is easily top of the pops for me, having listened to the album a half dozen times now. On a selfish note, it would have been fantastic if both nights had been released since they were both recorded. It appears the show on June 29 was not recorded. Either way, one cannot help but be excited by whatever else Bowie’s estate have in the pipelines for release over the coming years. Why they sat on this release for almost 40 years is beyond me.
So what happened to Earls Court? Well, the venue was demolished in 2014 to make way for luxury apartments (pictured above) and offices suits. Last financial year, it lost over 119 million pounds in value or around 20% of its value. After being opened in 1887 and rebuilt during the 1930’s, it was a crying shame to see the venue demolished in the name of developers greed. Aside from rock concerts, Earls Court was home to many other sports including Olympic events during the 1948 and 2012 games and also hosted home shows, live theater productions and record fairs. Welcome To The Blackout is a stunning reminder of a time when concert tours were deemed more important than that of developers profits.
SET LIST: Warszawa/”Heroes”/What In The World/Be My Wife/The Jean Genie/Blackout/Sense Of Doubt/Speed Of Life/Sound And Vision/Breaking Glass/Fame/Beauty And The Beast/Five Years/Soul Love/Star/Hang Onto Yourself/Ziggy Stardust/Suffragette City/Art Decade/Alabama Song/Station To Station/TVC 15/Stay/Rebel Rebel