David Live

Not Rated

Rather than serving as a welcome introduction to or summation of David Bowie's oeuvre, this two-record live album lumps together the several facets of his music into a thin, samey oneness. Any power these 16 originals had ("Knock on Wood" is the 17th cut) can only be guessed at from hearing these cursory versions. The backing is one dimensional, mixed into a flat canvas to highlight Bowie's presence, and despite extended solos the band does not establish an engaging identity. Bowie is centerstage all the way, and the thinness and flaccidity of this outing are in large part due to his often perfunctory, slurred and hurried vocals. Instead of providing for a more intimate performance, the live setting has only brought out Bowie's more unfortunate theatrical mannerisms; any magic these may have worked in person is, on platter, only so much heavy breathing. Bowie also indulges the greater weakness of taking himself too seriously. His rebel anthems aren't strong enough to carry the weight of Social Consciousness he'd sometimes like them to, and when "Changes" is framed like a Watergate prophecy, you figure you're hearing Bowie on the wrong night.

From The Archives Issue 738: July 11, 1996