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Album 99 | Look at the Moon! (2021)

Look at the Moon is the last of the Brilliant Live Adventures series of albums that were available for a limited time on the web site, all of which (mostly) feature live performances by Bowie in the 1990s. This particular two-CD set is a recording of his show at the Live Phoenix Festival in 1997. That was right in the middle of the time I would see Bowie live, when I could. So his act, his sound, his musical selections have a kind of nostalgic appeal for me. The one, big downside of this series is that it would have worked better as a box set. As it is, there are many duplicate songs from one disc to the next. Added to other live albums from Bowie’s performances around this time and the individual albums are somewhat difficult to distinguish. I’m enjoying listening to Look at the Moon, but its not likely that, in the future, I’ll find myself specifically seeking out this collection because there’s a whole lot specifically memorable about it.

That’s the downside, but there’s a lot of upside. To begin with, there’s a big benefit to consistency. Its hard to imagine anyone listing to this show, let alone attending this show, and coming away thinking Bowie was off, that his set was too short, that there was any sloppiness to a single song. The album is a pleasure to hear. Bowie had a huge catalogue to draw from by the 1990s, and though he featured songs from that decade, he sprinkled in several others from the 70s and early 80s (he skipped anything from period beginning with Let’s Dance (1983) and ending with The Buddha of Suburbia (1993). The title comes from a line Bowie shouts out while performing “The Jean Genie.” That’s not a line from the song— I’m guessing this was an outdoor concert and he was literally telling the audience to look at the moon. Maybe it was impressive that night.

Anyway, the outstanding contribution of the album does not actually feature Bowie singing, instead, this bassist, Gail Ann Dorsey takes the lead in singing Laurie Anderson’s, “O Superman.” Its magnificent. Dorsey, in addition to playing the base, sings back-up for Bowie and takes the Freddie Mercury part in “Under Pressure.” She’s a worthy substitute and I remember her being a distinctive presence in Bowie;s shows.

I recently listened to Bowie’s first live album, David Live. For a while that, and Stage, were the only two live albums apart from bootlegs. While alive, Bowie took care that his few live albums featured little or no overlap. But David Live hasn’t aged well. His performance was uneven and his voice sounds off. Bowie himself would later comment that it should have been called, David Bowie is Alive and Well and Living Only in Theory. By the 90s, Bowie had lost some of his dangerous edge, and his voice had evolved from where it was in the early 70s (in this respect, the Bowie concerts that I saw, as with this disc, were different than, say Paul McCartney concerts I’ve seen over the past few years that sounded pretty much like they would have in the mid-60s). But I think he would have been happy with how he sounds on this one. Since we won’t be able to see another actual live Bowie concert, this seemingly unending procession of live albums will have to do.

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