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Week 89 | Something in the Air: Live Paris 99 (2021)

The number of Bowie live albums has proliferated so much since his death that some of them are starting to sound alike.  There are so many, that despite having commented on 88 previous Bowie albums, I have been unable to keep up.  There are albums on Amazon that I have never heard of.  I missed one of a series of albums offered by Davidbowie.com featuring performances from the 1990s (“Look at the Moon”) before it was replaced by another from the same series.  “Something in the Air” had the potential to be just another in the procession of such albums.  Fortunately, however, it is something more.

There are now live albums that heavily feature songs from almost every of Bowie’s studio albums.  Up to this point, one that was missing was the 1999 album, ‘hours…’.  “Something in the Air” fills that void (though a small selection of songs from the album appear on other live albums).  ‘hours…’ is one of Bowie’s weaker albums.  It represents one of Bowie’s early attempts to figure out what the Internet had to do with making music.  The result isn’t terrible, but for me it lacks energy and is more gimmicky than innovative.  So it might not seem like a live album featuring five songs from such an album is a selling point.  Nonetheless, it is.

Not unlike the “Glass Spider Tour” live album featuring songs from “Never Let Me Down,” the live version of the ‘hours…’ songs sound better than their studio counterparts.  That’s not usually the case for Bowie, but it is here.  Also, ‘hours…’ is weighted down by all the songs being on the same album, while here they are broken up by both “greatest hits” like, “China Girl” and “Rebel Rebel,” and more obscure songs like, “Can’t Help Thinking About Me” and “Repetition.”  There’s a good chance you never heard the former and have forgotten the latter.

All together, “Something in the Air” includes fifteen songs with a nice mix of new and old, obscure and well known.  In other words, it isn’t really like anything else out there (that I’ve heard).  At a point where there’s a hunger for more Bowie, with the impossibility of anything truly new, this then is close to as good as it gets.

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