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Week 88 | Ouvrez Le Chien and No Trendy Rechauffe (2020)

Bowie’s official web site, Davidbowie.com, has been a great source for the parade of live albums that roll out at a rate of one every few months since Bowie’s death.  The site is currently releasing a series of albums taken from performances but Bowie in the 1990s, under the umbrella title of, “Brilliant Live Adventures.”  In a way, this is the live album I have been waiting for, except “this” is the wrong pronoun— though there is considerable overlap between the first three albums from the series, “this” is really a “they” (I previously commented on the third album, “Live and Well,” which was previously released many years ago but has been out of circulation).

I saw Bowie perform in 1995, when he was promoting the album, “1. Outside.”  “1. Outside” is one of my favorite albums, but for reasons I don’t fully understand is not a fan favorite.  Bowie was, at the time, in a hard rock phase that died out after his next album, “Earthling,” and his live performances had an edge that never really came back.  Both of these live albums are heavy on the “1. Outside” songs, display that hard edge and are well performed.

My biggest complaint has to do with that overlap.  Not even counting “Live and Will,” let alone the two future albums from the set, seven songs appear on both of these albums.  Both albums start with the same song, “Look Back in Anger,” which is a great song and is performed well on both albums, but it seems like some sort of wasted opportunity to start both albums the same way.  Another terrific song, “Hallo Spaceboy,” does not appear on, “Ouvrez Le Chien,” but appears twice on, “No Trendy Rechauffe.”

All this seems sloppy.  Bowie’s first two live albums, “David Live” and “Stage” contained a total of four discs and no duplicate songs.  Some of his other live albums contain a large number of songs taken from multiple performances from the same tour.  A live album or series of albums covering Bowie’s performances in the 1990s is long overdue, but I’m not sure what the point is of all the duplicate songs.  Someone in the market for one of these albums would be hard-pressed to choose because of the songs that are not duplicates, such as, “Jump they Say,” “Outside,” “Nite Flights” and others, but I imagine most listeners would be perturbed to have to get through songs they just played on one album to get to the unique songs on the other.  This is especially perplexing considering that five such albums are part of the “Brilliant Live Adventures” box set and seem intended  to be pieces of a whole.

The confusion does not end there. The French nonsense phrase, “Ouvrez Le Chien” (open the dog) appears in two Bowie songs— “All the Madmen” and, “Buddha of Suburbia.”  Neither song appears on the album that uses that phrase as its title.  “No Trendy Rechauffe” is an obscure lyric from the song,”Strangers When We Meet,” which thankfully does appear on the album of that name, but it is also a strange choice to name a live album that contains no truly new songs.  (I had to look it up, but “Rechauffe” basically means, “leftovers”).

These flaws don’t extend to the way the songs on these albums actually sound— they sound great.  I very much liked his hard-edged mid-1990s style, and I like the memories they evoke for me of that Pittsburgh concert.  Also, for me personally, I will always choose more Bowie over less.

It is now possible to listen to live performances from Bowie starting in the early 1970s through the early 2000s.  I can think of only one tour of his that is not covered by a live album yet (his 1990, “Sound and Vision” tour).  On the whole, this represents value for Bowie’s legacy.  This particular chapter could just have been added with a little more efficiency.

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