Why this album was never officially released until now remains one of the great mysteries of major-label decision making. Long bootlegged, Live Santa Monica ’72 captures the glam-rock pioneer during his Ziggy Stardust prime,on his first U.S. tour, recording what is unequivocally his best concertalbum. With no needless production tricks to separate the music from thelive experience, everything, including the crowd, becomes part of thisintimate show taped at the Santa Monica Civic Center. Bowie is relaxed andchatty — he even introduces “Andy Warhol” with a goofy impersonation of thepop artist. His band, featuring the combustive guitar work of Mick Ronsonand tight rhythm section of bassist Trevor Bolder and drummer Mick “Woody”Woodmansey, was his strongest lineup ever, and here they run though nearlyall of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,fleshing out the loose storyline about an alien rock star with appropriatecuts from earlier LPs, such as Hunky Dory‘s “Life on Mars” and Space Oddity‘s title song. Bowie also turns cover versions of the VelvetUnderground’s junkie anthem “Waiting for the Man” and Jacques Bruel’sbeautiful and harrowing “My Death” into fitting rock & roll hymns for Ziggy.It’s a near-flawless document of a character Bowie would soon leave behindfor good.