The European leg of David Bowie’s Isolar II world tour wrapped up with a three-night stand at London’s Earls Court in late June and early July of 1978. Bowie and a killer seven-piece band had been on the road since March supporting Low and Heroes, though their set highlighted material from nearly all of his 1970s albums. They were a tight machine by the time of the Earls Court gigs and Bowie had the foresight to bring in filmmaker David Hemmings to film the shows.
All three nights opened up with the low, instrumental “Warszawa” that went directly into the title track to Heroes – which you can watch here. He recorded the song at West Berlin’s Hansa Studios in the summer of 1977, directly in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. The sight of producer Tony Visconti kissing backup singer Antonia Maas near the enormous stricture inspired Bowie to write a tale about two lovers embracing near the wall as “guns shot above our heads.” Visconti was married at the time, so Bowie fibbed about the true inspiration of the song for years, finally fessing up in the early 2000s.
The footage of the Earls Court show has yet to be professionally released. “I simply didn’t like the way it had been shot,” Bowie said in 2000. “Now, of course, it looks pretty good and I would suspect that it would make it out some time in the future.” It’s 16 years later and we’re still waiting for that future moment, but thankfully a pristine copy of the entire show has wound up on YouTube. But they really should remaster it and put it into movie theaters. The Stage live album was recorded earlier in the tour and this is a far better show. It should be shared with the world.