David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars – Cleveland 1972 1st Night (Wardour – 218)

David Bowie, ‘Cleveland 1972 – First Night’

Ode To Joy / Hang On To Yourself / Ziggy Stardust / Changes / The Supermen / Life On Mars? / Five Years / Space Oddity / Andy Warhol / Drive-In Saturday / The Width Of A Circle / John, I’m Only Dancing / Moonage Daydream / Member Introduction / I’m Waiting For The Man / the Jean Genie / Suffragette City / Rock N’ Roll Suicide

Live At Public City, Cleveland, OH, USA. 25th November, 1972.

The beauty of David Bowie’s shows in the early 1970’s was that there was very little in the way of what could be termed as obscure. Obviously, hindsight is a wonderful thing and in the latter stages of his touring life, we’d want nothing more than a ‘Bewley Brothers’ or the second side of ‘Low’ just for the magic of being held in the hands of the god but listening back to Ziggy’s early foundation and formation, you’d be hard pushed not to find a single for the glittery masses among the sets. This tape from Cleveland being a case in point, pretty much packed with song after song that the avid Bowie fan would at least know from David’s frequent appearances on various BEEB appearances or from their well played vinyl platters.

This tape, a tiny bit flat, lightly crunchy, mono audience recording previously released from a different cassette on the no label “Va Va Va Voom” (SH 120), “Ziggy’s Invasion Of America” (STARDUST 721125) and “Cleveland Music Hall” (Gold Standard) is one of the better recordings from this tour, this particular release however, a newly discovered upgrade to the previous issues and so a little longer too.

Beginning with pretty much all of ‘Ode To Joy’ (Thanks to the taper for including THAT!) the show quickly ramps up to ‘Hang On To Yourself’ (The volume at which the band are playing starts to push the meters however and adds a bit of crunch to the volume – loud but not over blocked) the track features a cut at 0:27 skipping the track for a couple of lines. Maybe the tape snagged and pushed out the record button?), immediately, ‘Ziggy Stardust’ blows in, a heavy, crunchy take on the track, threatening to overblow the levels of the tape.
A short break for breath before ‘Changes’ and it’s swinging easiness along with lyrics written with the intent to capture the disenfranchised youth. Step-cousin to ‘See Emily Play’ and close relative to ‘Wide Eyed Boy From Freecloud’, ‘The Supermen’, has the sound-levels running to red again in the parts of the track where the band ramp up.

A languid, ‘Love On Mars’ is charmingly grand, whatever has David in giggles at the beginning we might never know, ‘Five Years’ in turn is boomingly deathless and withering, exactly what you’d expect really from this apocalyptical barcarole – There is a little bit too much air around the bass drum distorting the sound but it’s only fleeting.
‘Space Oddity’ is preceded by a request by David for various members of the crowd to sit down, it’s quite lovely to hear how nervous he still sounds in his early touring years, there’s none of the knowing panache of his later shows, none of the steely reticence either, he’s here by order and request so is meekly polite. The song itself is awkwardly misplaced by it’s lack of technology, Bowie taking to making the sound of the stylophone with harmonies and scat singing, it’s tooth grindingly twee at points.

A brave attempt at audience chatter comes before ‘Andy Wahol’ (Or “Aaaandy War’ol” if you’re from Beckenham). A little less laboured than ‘Space Oddity’ despite the lack of electric guitar, Mick Ronson picking out the spacey amendments towards the end before running through a Spanish flavoured solo, slowly blending in to an electrified crescendo. A lovely moment happens before ‘Drive-In Saturday’, as Bowie first kindly requests that any would-be bootleggers put away their recording equipment and cease recording as they’re about to play a new track that was written on the road on this tour before explaining what the track is about. Stripped of all it’s production doesn’t change it, in fact it is just as sublime and glides through it’s revered silence and then, without a word and with the smallest amount of a pause, the band strike up an enthralling, electrified and wigged out, ‘Width Of A Circle’. Another chance for the band to gel on an elastic and elongated jamming session. There are a couple of problems with the tape here as it chews very slightly a couple of times but we lose nothing from the recording and the pace at which the band rampage through the track is astonishing making it the top of the many highlights of the evening. The band don’t take too long to relax between this and ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’ as Ronson’s stabbing then cascading lead backed by that inimitable percussion section backs him up.

A cut in the tape follows the band introduction and precedes ‘Waiting For The Man’ (Presumably the break before the first encore) chipping the very first chords away. Edging the Velvet’s original version for best, Mike Garson’s barrel piano jangle rocks hard against Mick’s stridently solid and heavy guitar, the coda upping the rush as he cuts away in to a frenetic avant-loose solo matching Mr. Garson’s own free wheeling style.
Locking the audiences gaze in their sight, the final triplicate of songs closes down the gig. The none-more-Stones-do-glam, unhinged, stomp of ‘Jean Genie’ and it’s playful sparing of piano and guitar, the bullet quick, ‘Suffragette City’ and the wrought, impassioned ‘Rock N’ Roll Suicide’, Ziggy’s clarion call to his fans end the show with the sport of feedback shortly before ‘Ode To Joy’ begins again before the tapes fade.

Certainly a good upgrade to an already very exciting tape, I’d recommend this show for the classy (mainly) black and white packaging but also for a tightly packed show from a classic Ziggy era.

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