Serious Moonlight (The Swinging Pig Records Tsp-Cd-221-2)
Forum, Montreal, Quebec, Canada – July 13th, 1983
Disc One: Look back in anger, breaking glass, scary monsters, rebel rebel , “heroes” , what in the world ,life on mars? , sorrow, golden years, fashion, let’s dance, red sails, china girl, white light, white heat
Disc Two: Station to station , cracked actor , ashes to ashes , space oddity , band intro ,young americans , cat people , tvc 15 , fame , star , stay , the jean genie , I can’t explain , modern love
Not a new release but rather a classic from the Bowie canon and worth looking at again. Released in 1996 ‘Serious Moonlight’ is a double CD housed in a slim jewel case. Possibly taken from the King Biscuit FM recording made at the Montreal Forum on 13th July 1983 the sound quality is astoundingly good and comparable to an official release. The high quality indicates that this may well be a pre-FM source.
The second of two nights, this show has featured on vinyl many times and on a variety of CDs but The Swinging Pig features superior quality and better packaging than any other pressed title from this show. The ‘Institute Of Sunrise’ produced a fine Cdr ,‘Totally Serious’, that claims to be from the soundboard of this date but the Swinging Pig release has a more dynamic sound and much better stereo separation.
‘Serious Moonlight’ is a release that will appeal to anyone with a passing interest in David Bowie as it is a faithful document of one of the Thin White Duke’s most accessible periods and is biased towards his greatest hits. The 1983 tour ran from May to December 1983 and, as is usual with Bowie at this time, the most interesting shows feature on the early dates with the set-list becoming truncated as the tour progresses. The Montreal show captures the band in red-hot form and with the set-list relatively intact as it still features ‘TVC15′ , ‘Red Sails’ , ‘Star’ and ‘I can’t explain’ (a slowed down but excellent Who cover) that were eventually dropped, but misses ‘Joe the Lion’, ‘Hang on to yourself’, and ‘Wild is the wind’ that all featured on earlier dates. ‘Modern Love’ was officially released as the B-side to the studio version of the same song.
The Serious Moonlight Tour contained a small amount of choreography but not the staged intricacies of the later ‘Glass Spider’ Tour. This meant that the tour worked well in venues of all sizes with the innovative lighting proving to be a particular success. The Montreal Show was presented in two parts with a break in between.
Bowie delivered a string of fine performances in 1983 seemingly happy and in good health and this is one of the best although his voice is in a lower register than usual, almost certainly due to a lifetime of smoking. It would be some years before he regained his full range.
The music is superbly arranged and presented with many songs receiving a makeover. Carlos Alomar’s rhythm guitar and the lead playing of Earl Slick (replacing Stevie Ray Vaughan) are particular highlights. The whole performance is slick, polished and professional with only the occasional fluffed lyric. For once the whole band is an integral part of the show, not just musically but also visually and theatrically. Bowie rarely talks to the audience here; very different to the chatterbox he is today. The decision to feature saxophones so prominently throughout the 83′ shows is a little disturbing and significantly alters the feel of some of the songs. Some work well with sax, ‘fame’ for example and others don’t, such as ‘breaking glass’ which suffers without the edgy industrial guitar of previous and later versions. This is something Bowie unfortunately persevered with for the rest of the 80’s.
The Serious Moonlight Tour was a huge Success and the biggest tour of 1983 with 2.6 million people attending the 97 concerts but for the first time Bowie was appealing to a new type of fan, the fan who only owned ‘Let’s Dance’ and was as likely to attend a Phil Collins or Billy Joel concert as a Bowie one. This tour propelled Bowie into the stratosphere of Superstardom but also heralded the onset of an artistically barren period. This tour is arguably the last highpoint for Bowie until the middle 90s.
‘Serious Moonlight’ captures Bowie at the height of his fame with an exceptionally talented band behind him and must rank as an essential release featuring as it does a fine performance ,superb sound, great songs and excellent packaging that would put many an official release to shame. Buy it when you findIf you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)