David Bowie Stage is a live album of the 1978 tour promoting Low and Heroes from his Berlin phase with Brian Eno.
It was his second live album after the disappointing reception to David Live from 1974’s Diamond Dogs tour.
I’ve bought Stage twice – first as a double LP when it first came out and then much later as a CD when I really wanted at least one David Bowie live album in my collection. It seemed to an obvious album to buy because I struggle to like his Berlin studio albums.
David Bowie Stage Overall Rating – 22/30
- Warszawa – 6:46 (from the album Low)
- Heroes – 6:10 (Heroes)
- What In The World – 4:16 (Low)
- Be My Wife – 2:35 (Low)
- Black Out – 3:52 (Heroes)
- Sense Of Doubt – 3:07 (Heroes)
- Speed Of Life – 2:39 (Low)
- Breaking Glass – 3:22 (Low)
- Beauty And The Beast – 5:00 (Heroes)
- Fame – 4:03 (Young Americans)
- Five Years – 3:58 (Ziggy Stardust)
- Soul Love – 2:55 (Ziggy Stardust)
- Star – 2:25 (Ziggy Stardust)
- Hang On To Yourself – 3:21 (Ziggy Stardust)
- Ziggy Stardust – 3:27 (Ziggy Stardust)
- Art Decade – 3:01 (Low)
- Alabama Song – 3:55 (cover first recorded by Bowie for this album)
- Station To Station – 8:40 (Station To Station)
- Stay – 7:18 (Station To Station)
- TVC 15 – 4:32 (Station To Station)
The running order for the original vinyl album was significantly different with the commercial songs from Ziggy Stardust and Station To Station upfront and the gloomy stuff from Low and Heroes tucked away on sides 3 and 4.
That’s where my bias lies too. When I first bought Stage I loved Ziggy, Hunky Dory and Station To Station but Low and Heroes weren’t for me, despite the rave reviews when they were released in 1977. The UK music press were rating both as amongst the best albums of 1977, and that was the year when the first punk rock live albums were released.
I love the track Heroes. In fact it is probably one of my favourite songs by any artist let alobe David Bowie. I still don’t appreciate many of the other tracks on the two albums and especially the instrumentals.
This makes Heroes hard for me to like although I accept that in 1978 Bowie had to promote his Berlin based albums.
My rating for his set list is 7/10 thanks to Ziggy and Station To Station. It does however nicely complement David Live because I don’t think there are any repeated tracks which is remarkable. It shows how much Bowie is prepared to change his shows and not trot out his greatest hits.
David Bowie Stage Performance Rating – 9/10
This is a spirited performance by David Bowie and his band and I find his songs from Low and Heroes more exciting here than on the studio albums.
Mind you I’m glad I’ve got the set list in front of me because if I’d been there I think I’d have started to despair after the fourth or fifth song. Heroes picks you up but then the mood plummets again.
It’s a relief when Five Years starts and the subsequent songs are played with enthusiasm.
Bowie’s voice sounds terrific and holds up well throughout the album.
The keyboards and guitars are balanced in the mix without either dominating. The sax that drenched David Live has gone from here.
David Live had Bowie playing with his tracks in a way that made the live performance very different from the studio versions. Stage is much closer to the originals but then this does represent his most experimental music so perhaps it’s just as well.
Here are some videos of David Bowie performing live in 1978.
Heroes – it’s an obvious place to start but it is my favourite David Bowie song
Sense Of Doubt
Beauty And The Beast
David Bowie Stage Atmosphere & Authenticity Rating – 6/10
The sound quality is excellent throughout and is a credit to Tony Visconti. I also understand that it hasn’t been tweaked in the studio although Station To Station has two versions edited together.
The essence of David Bowie in the 1970s was innovation and progression.
Apart from the distinctive vocal mannerisms, it’s still difficult to believe that an artist could have so many different variations from the glam rock of Ziggy to the plastic soul of Young Americans and the electronics of Low and Heroes.
Stage is a great time capsule of David Bowie’s sound in 1977 and 1978 but it’s not the Bowie I like best.
There’s something here that leaves me cold and means that Stage is the least played of my David Bowie live albums.
This version of Bowie isn’t the one I want, perhaps because I never seem to pin him down. If you look at the order of the set list, it has three distinct parts – 1) Low & Heroes, 2) Ziggy and 3) Station To Station with no transitions. If I’m in the mood for any of those in particular I’m more likely to reach for the studio albums.
Stage vs a David Bowie Compilation vs Various Studio Albums
This is the section where I think about how well a live album summarises the artist for people who only want one or two albums in their collection.
There are quite a few David Bowie compilations and The Platinum Collection is very comprehensive. The three CDs can also be bought separately as The Best of David Bowie 1968 – 74, 74 – 79 and 1980 – 87.
These work well if you are interested in the well known songs and the really interesting material is on the first two albums.
If you’re prepared to stretch the number of David Bowie albums, I’d say
Essential – Ziggy Stardust, Hunky Dory, Station To Station
Very Good – Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs
An alternative view of looking at David Bowie is through his live albums and how well they cover his phases of development:
- Glam rock – Live Santa Monica
- Philly soul – David Live
- Electronic soul /funk /rock – Nassau (sold with Station To Station)
- Experimental electronics – Stage
The first of those I’d drop is Stage. As I mentioned earlier, I struggle with the set list pulling so much from Low and Heroes. I’d be very reluctant to part with the other three.
My bias is towards live albums so when I want to hear David Bowie, I turn there before I go back to the studio albums to pick up missing tracks.
Total Rating For David Bowie Stage – 22/30
On my rating system, that puts this album one point ahead of David Live although I think that could be revised upwards.
Each are interesting and if you’re a big David Bowie fan, worth hearing but neither are the definitive live album to pull in those who are less convinced of Bowie’s musical genius.
Stage serves a purpose if you want something from the Berlin period but neither Low or Heroes studio albums work for you.
What Other People Say About Stage
In the greatest album lists, this album appears a couple of times:
Chordstrike rank it 41st
Bowie’s under-represented on these best live albums lists which I believe shows that the definitive David Bowie live album is hidden away.
But it’s there if you know where to look. See my readers poll below.
Amazon reviews are very positive.
To help you to find the album quickly and easily, I’ve given you the following links::
What Do You Think About Stage?
I’d like to know what you think about this album so please leave a comment.
Do you think it’s a great album?
What Are The Best Live Albums Of All Time?
Please help me find the best live albums by voting in the readers polls:
Click on the links to vote and to see the results so far.
Other David Bowie live albums are: Santa Monica 72 – Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture – David Live – Live Nassau Coliseum ’76 – Stage – Glass Spider Live – A Reality Tour – VH1 Storytellers – DVD Serious Moonlight
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