Ouvrez Le Chien (Live Dallas 95)
The gates are wide open now, the David Bowie reissues and new releases are pouring. Some are very, very boring. Some didn’t need to happen. But there are some gems – of course. There’s gold in the vault, and probably a bit more to come too. But this year and last we’ve had a few interesting archival live shows.
One that’s really taken my fancy is this gig from the 1995 ‘Outside’ Tour in Dallas at the Starplex Amphitheater, October 13.
It’s not secret I’m a huge fan of the Outside album – my ramble there about it being David’s most underrated album eventually appeared as part of the Dylan Jones-edited oral history tome, David Bowie: A Life.
I mention that so you know I’d be salivating at the prospect of any live versions from album out in the world officially (I’ve nabbed a few bootlegs over the years).
Outside was a hard sell but I listen to We Prick You and I’m Deranged and The Heart’s Filthy Lesson and I hear this as extraordinary works; bit hits that should have been – why weren’t they? Maybe Bowie’s bad patch of late 80s and Tin Machine meant he was so far off the radar and just seemed a bit like an old geezer trying to remain cool when he made this album in 1995. I loved it on first listen and feel like it’s still the great under-discovered gem. These live versions make it sound even better actually – they show that the problem was not in the performances at all. Even, I have Not Been To Oxford Town, which, on the record, granted, is a little (too) camp or something. Here it pops.
The other thing I love about this live set – and Bowie almost always knew what he was doing, right? – is the fact that there aren’t any of the really big hits in support. He digs deep into the catalogue to find things that could work around the showcasing of the Outside material. So we get Andy Warhol and some Glass Spider material; we get Joe The Lion and Teenage Wildlife. These are great tunes – but they’re not the smash hits he could have trotted out as on previous tours. Not a Rebel Rebel nor a Gene Jennie in sight.
Moonage Daydream is a great song – one of the greatest, many fans might tell you. But it’s not a massive hit like its parent album’s title cut. It’s not Starman either. So the only smash hit he tosses out is Under Pressure. His Queen collab. And hearing it here – as an encore, obviously – it almost feels like an apology. A consolation. Send home the PlusOne’s happy after they sat through the new material and a bunch of old songs they barely recognised.
Of all the recent Bowie live albums this one is my favourite. It’s better than bootleg quality – it’s fine in that regard. But what’s best about it is the actual setlist. Just looking at it as you hear it and thinking of the balls it took to put this together and play it. And own it.
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