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1976 Vancouver Concert Rehersal

YouTube keeps sending me these recordings of complete concerts, and as I listen to them, I’ll post them! That said, you will notice that there is no video link. For some reason, YouTube won’t let me link to it. Before reading any further, try this link.

I hope you are able to find this video. In a way, something like this is better than many of the live albums, because this shows us something different. Bowie performs many of the songs in rehearsal with perfection, but he screws up a few times. In places he forgets words and replaces them with sounds. He calls off “Five Years” and restarts twice. He seems to forget the words to “Fame.” As the rehearsal goes on, Bowie gets sloppier and seems to get bored.

Despite, or maybe because of the flaws, this show is strangely compelling. Bowie has no audience to play off— maybe that’s why of the songs he performs without obvious flaws sound almost perfect. He’s not improvising based on audience reaction. His voice isn’t competing with cheers and chatter.

Bowie’s repertoire in 1976 was far more limited than it would come to be. Though he was performing and even recording for most of the 60s, he stopped drawing from that period for songs to perform in concert. So he’s really drawing upon his body of work over the past five years. That said, it’s amazing how much he leaves out— he even taps Young Americans, his second to most recent album, for only one song, “Fame.”

The two highlights for me are “Waiting for the Man,” a Velvet Underground song Bowie would perform for much of his career, and “Sister Midnight.” “Sister Midnight” was a Bowie-Iggy Pop collaboration that first appeared on Iggy’s album, The Idiot, which had not yet been released. Bowie would borrow the music but come up with completely different lyrics for the song “Red Money,” which he included on the 1979 album, Lodger.

The sound quality is pretty good here, and the video was obviously taken by a professional, but it must have gone through multiple reproductions before ending up on YouTube because the end result is often faded or unfocused. If you don’t find the video for yourself, you’ll get the idea from the screenshot I used here. But I hope you find the video…

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