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Week 1 | A Reality Tour (2010 Live Album)

This is one of my favorite live Bowie albums. It was recorded on his final tour in 2003, so it includes songs from throughout his career. This also seems to have been the happiest Bowie had been on tour, so the performances have a level of energy that are missing from some of the other live albums. For me, Bowie’s studio albums were generally better than his live albums. I’m not exactly sure why— the actual concerts I attended were uniformly great, but some of the other live albums don’t capture the lived experience. This one comes close.

There are several highlights. “Rebel Rebel,” “Fame,” “Loving the Alien,” all appear in different enough manifestations from the studio versions as to almost be new songs. “Sister Midnight” is Bowie’s version of the song originally recorded by Iggy Pop, then borrowed for its music but not it’s lyrics for Bowie’s “Red Money.” Best of all are the live versions of some pretty obscure songs (such as, “The Motel,”) and many post-80s songs that don’t appear other live albums and seldom if ever appear in tributes. I’m not exactly sure why the latter is true. Bowie made plenty of great music for 30 years after “Let’s Dance,” yet most of the many tributes I’ve seen or heard since his death act like the 80’s was the end. This album doesn’t make that mistake. Depending on the version, there are up to eight songs from “Reality” (2003), five from “Heathen” (2002), and two each from Earthling (1997) and Outside (1995). To date, there is no live album from Bowie’s touring of those last two albums, so this and the obscure EP “Earthling in the City” (I’ll come to that later) are it.

Beyond all that, there’s just a lot of good music on this two-disc set. Again depending on the edition, there are upward of 35 songs here. By comparison, the studio album “Station to Station” has six songs and “Blackstar” has seven.

I remember when “A Reality Tour” came out in 2010, a review I read speculated that it might have been Bowie’s final work, and if so that it was a worthy end. Fortunately there was more to come, but I agree, the album is worthy. Here’s my last point: I wouldn’t say this is one of my five favorite Bowie albums, but I have five or so CDs in my car, and this has been one of them for many months. So I don’t just like this album in theory, I actually listen to it quite a bit.

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