Stage is the second live album by David Bowie and was culled from recordings of his ’78 US Tour.
The bulk of the material is from Bowie’s most recent studio albums to that date, Station to Station, Low and “Heroes” but also five songs from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Aside from Bowie’s core team of Carlos Alomar, Dennis Davis and George Murray, band members included ex-Frank Zappa sideman Adrian Belew on guitar (fresh from being his ‘stunt’ guitarist), Simon House from Hawkwind on electric violin, Roger Powell, best known for his work with Todd Rundgren in the group Utopia, on keyboards and Sean Mayes on piano, string ensemble and backup vocals. All would reunite the following year on Bowie’s next studio LP, Lodger. These musicians deserve a lot of credit for being able to create the electronic and effects-filled songs from Low and “Heroes” which appear on sides 3 and 4.
The first side features the 5 aforementioned Ziggy tracks, played with a bit of pep and vigour, whilst side 2 features the band give great performances of Fame, TVC15, and Station to Station and Bowie’s vocal performance is pretty good throughout. Unlike the previous live album (David Live), the arrangements hadn’t been tampered to much, thus giving the album a staid feel and the recordings being largely taken from direct instrument and microphone feeds, (which increased sound quality but minimised crowd noise) added to that staidness. There’s also fade outs between the songs akin to a studio album as opposed to a live one which doesn’t help matters either.
Despite the lack of any real spontaneity on this album, I quite enjoyed listening to it; I was never that big a fan of his Berlin period but the performances here are making me reasses my feelings towards that time. It’s a solid 8/10 for me with sides 1 and 2 getting more love than the more ‘difficult’ side. It’s a recommend too as it’s a better album than David Live and is a more consistent listen to than the predecessor.
Next time, I’m back in the saddle again, but until then TTFN.