David Bowie Stage Limited Edition Live

This reissue on compact disc of Stage, considered the finest of David Bowie’s live recordings, presents the songs in their original order of play with precise reproduction. Something that was simply not available on vinyl due to its fidelity and time limitations. Additionally, the original decision was also based on the idea of presenting the tracks in what amounted to a roughly chronological order, reflecting when each song had been created.

Stage comprises totally live recordings from shows in Philadelphia’s Spectrum and the Boston Garden. There was no rerecording of any elements although, due to the fine quality of the recording, many have doubted this point at various times over the years. What produced such fine sound quality was mixing engineer Tony Visconti’s insistence on recording as though the concerts were studio sessions. Each instrument and microphone was close-miked in order to give greater clarity to the instruments and vocals as well as providing greater separation from the audience. In addition, many of the instruments were recorded directly from their line feeds, so no interference could be allowed from anything in the air. As to the audience, it has long been standard practice to record the audience with two mics, one at either side of the hall or arena, but Visconti used four mics, employing quadrophonic sound. The result reflects the full, hollow reverberant ambience of the venues, a crisp and honest representation of the music and a true to life audience. What Stage does very well, beyond capturing clear and finely mixed music, is reproducing the fullness of sound that occurs in a large theatre, hall, stage or arena. Having a live recording is a joy not only because of the changeups the musicians throw into the music and the sheer energy they convey, but also the unique live sound, one that is now real and that does not possess the sometimes claustrophobic studio sound.

Beginning with the hauntingly melodramatic ambient instrumentals of “Warszawa,” the crowd is immediately lulled into submission before Bowie explodes into an inspired rendition of “Heroes.” Already one can hear that Bowie knows exactly how to manipulate an audience with a set list. This is one of the more intriguing aspects of this release of Stage, as because the set order is restored, it is easier to gauge and follow the audience’s reaction to the ebb and flow of the music. On “Heroes,” “Breaking Glass,” Ziggy Stardust” and “Star” especially, the ease with which Bowie sings is readily apparent. He never sounds as though he’s trying to do too much or scream into the mic, and he’s never overwhelmed by the large venues or crowds. “Blackout” is another atmospheric that sounds really cool, especially when the crowd starts to freak out at the end right before “Sense of Doubt” jolts to life. Other tracks like “Fame,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Station to Station” and “Hang on to Yourself” contribute to make this a fine collection of Bowie’s best from his Low and Heroes albums, with a couple from Ziggy Stardust thrown in for good measure.

“Stay” and “Be My Wife” are two included tracks that did not make the previous incarnation of the album and they are very welcome here. “Be My Wife” is a fantastic rendition of what has always been an underappreciated song. Adrian Belew’s lead guitar is captured brilliantly and the sheer positive energy that flows out of the speakers not only contributes to the album as a whole but gives further proof as to the recording chops of Visconti.

For Bowie fans of all ages, whether or not you were even alive when Stage was recorded, and for those who want to know what a live recorded performance is supposed to sound like, this reissued two-disc Stage is for you and you and you.

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