Reality Tour Comes to Philadelphia, 2004
This is another concert video that popped up in my YouTube feed. An obvious bootleg, the sound quality is pretty good though there a few interruptions in the recording.
There’s an argument that this phase of Bowie’s touring career— his last— was his best, because he performed songs from throughout his career to that point. Though at this stage he doesn’t quite have the same raw, dangerous energy level heard on Santa Monica ‘72, the diversity of his song selection compensates quite well. I saw him twice during this tour and expected to see him many more times.
A few things of note: Bowie screws up “Quicksand” and stops the song midway through. He can’t remember the words. I think this happens again later, but if so he mumbles through a few other instances (or maybe the sound quality isn’t as good as I teased). But here, he stops and decides to sing, “Life on Mars” instead. But then he comes back and does “Quicksand” again, completely. The audience roared with approval when he made his mistake, like they not only saw something they weren’t supposed to, but were let in, as if Bowie shared something with them. That’s how I felt, anyway, and the audience seemed pretty happy to be there for the error. I was also impressed that Bowie was determined to deliver this song to the audience, which would have forgiven him if he just kept moving on. Oddly, this is a highlight.
Also of note, Bowie praises his opening band, Polyphonic Spree, twice. We don’t get to see the opening act here, but if we did, we would want to look out for the performer who would become St. Vincent, though as I remember the band, there were a lot of people wearing white robes and she might have been hard to pick out.
Also of note, Bowie banters about the 2004 presidential election and asks the audience about John Kerry— the reaction was a mix of cheers and boos. I thought this was interesting in part because the concert took place in March, so Kerry would have still been in the primaries, though by late March he was well on his way to being the nominee.
A few other notes: Bowie does four songs from Ziggy Stardust, which is as many as he did from Reality. I also thought it was interesting that he does “White Light/White Heat,” which is a Velvet Underground cover he performed at almost every stage of his career. He does “Under Pressure” with Gail Anne Dorsey singing the Freddie Mercury part — it sounds great. “Hallo Spaceboy” is cut off, which is too bad because it’s a great song and from what we can hear, it sounded like he was performing it well.
I get somewhat tired of repetitive live albums, which I think stratal the line between being exploitative and giving we fans what there is left to give us. At the same time, I’m not getting tired of these concerts that just pop up on YouTube, maybe because they don’t pretend to be anything other than what they are.