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David Bowie – L.A. Forum 1983 1st Night (Wardour-422)

L.A. Forum 1983 1st Night (Wardour-422)

The Forum, Inglewood, CA, USA – August 14, 1983

Disc 1 (54:29) Intro, The Jean Genie Intro, Star, “Heroes”, What In The World, Golden Years, Fashion, Let’s Dance, Breaking Glass, Life On Mars, Sorrow, Cat People, China Girl, Scary Monsters, Rebel Rebel, White Light White Heat

Disc 2 (58:24) Station To Station, Cracked Actor, Ashes To Ashes, Space Oddity, Band Introductions, Young Americans, Fame, TVC-15, Stay, The Jean Genie, Modern Love

The Lost and Found Mike the MICrophone Series has so far been quite diverse in their releases, via the JEMS collective. Volume 34 features a recording of David Bowie during the 1983 Serious Moonlight tour stop in Los Angeles. Having not toured in North America for five years, the demand was high and Bowie would play two shows at the Forum, this recording is the first night. Mike first taped Bowie back in 1974 in his pre Nakamichi days then again in 1978 in the Isolar II tour so it’s obvious Mike had an affection for Bowie music and live performance.

If you follow this series or read my reviews, the source of this series is either from Millard’s master tapes or verified 1st gens from Jim R, a close friend of Mike’s, this new Bowie title comes from the latter. Jim R was so close to Mike that his cassettes of Millard’s masters feature none of the markings Millard was known to do as a way to track his recordings. Giving full credit to both Jim R and JEMS, I like to include information from the original torrents, so here we go with Jim’s memories of this concert:

“Mike and I together attended the David Bowie concert at the Forum on August 14, 1983. We sat on the floor 10-15 rows back on the left side. Definitely behind our “Sweet Spot,” therefore, the sound is not as clear as last week’s Clapton from 2nd row center.

After five years away from touring, Bowie tickets were in extreme high demand. He only played two nights at The Forum, but could have easily sold out seven nights (he did swing back later that year to play Anaheim Stadium). Scalper prices were so high we could only afford 10-15 rows back. Bowie was a mega star thanks to Let’s Dance and MTV.

At this time The Forum had a strict “No Cameras or Recorders” policy. Mike got his equipment in via a payoff to security. My camera equipment was left at home, a sacrifice, so to speak, in order to not bring attention to the two of us. A 35mm SLR camera with a large zoom lens is easily spotted. During the recording, Mike passed the completed tapes to me one by one. If he got busted he would give them blanks.

The show was a lot of fun with Bowie playing songs from all eras. There is one side benefit to attending his concerts, so many beautiful women in attendance, most of which could have been models.”

So Mike was a few rows back from his “sweet spot”, let’s take a listen to see how it turned out. OK that was quick, sound is excellent. Being back a bit farther means a tad more crowd noise but it actually picks up more of the concerts atmosphere. The sound is extremely clear and well detailed, all instruments can be easily heard and individually picked out of the mix with excellent frequency range. Unlike the Clapton recording from 1975, this tape thankfully has almost no audible tape hiss, it is such an easy and enjoyable listen.

David’s return to L.A. was huge, demand was high and the celebrities came out to see him. At an after party of one of these concerts a plethora of the beautiful people rubbed shoulders with Bowie, notably Michael Jackson, Sissy Spacek, Irene Cara, Henry “The Fonz” Winkler, Tom Conti, Prince, Barbra Streisand, Donald Sutherland, Richard Perry, Bette Midler, Kim Carnes, Mick Fleetwood, Toni Basil, Sally Struthers…now that’s a party.

There is a great anticipation to David taking the stage, the recording begins with an instrumental swing played over the PA before an announcer says “Ladies and Gentlemen…onstage for the first time in five years…David Bowie” and the cheering builds until he takes the stage with a Jean Genie vamp leading into the first proper song, the Ziggy Stardust classic Star…a true Rock and Roll Star. By the time the band launch into “Heroes” the sound is, for me, perfect. The clarity is exceptional and Mike’s position is perfect, the Arena ambiance is perfectly captured and if I crank it up, I feel like I’m there, clear highs and a wonderful bottom end…just perfect.

The set list is a plethora of Bowie’s most popular works from his career, the pacing is spot on and the concert flows beautifully and never gets bogged down. Visually Bowie has never looked better, his super blond hair and casual suit look together with a dramatically lighted stage, fashion and music blended together…it’s great to watch live footage from this tour as well. Bowie put together a great band for this tour, Earl Slick and Carlos Alomar on guitars, Carmine Rojas on bass, Tony Thompson from Chic and Power Station fame on drums (let’s not forget the Led Zep Live Aid performance), and Dave LeBolt on synthesizers. Bowie also brought along a three piece horn section and a couple background singers as well, all stunning musicians.

One would expect with a band this big that instruments get lost, not the case. Take Fashion for instance, the singers warm up with a bit of do wop with each instrument taking a brief stab, guitar then synth, then horns, all over the excellent foundation laid down by Rojas and Thompson. David is in fine voice, Life On Mars is always a great song to gauge this, strong and deep, fitting the melancholy feel of the song. Songs like Sorrow fit perfectly with Cat People, a song that is even a better showcase for David’s vocals prowess. The older material gets updated a bit and blends well with the 80’s material like Cat People, Ashes To Ashes and the new songs from Let’s Dance. The band’s take on the Velvet Underground’s White Light, White Heat is pure Rock And Roll giving the band a chance to stretch out a bit, by its conclusion it brings the house down.

The beginning of Station To Station is very cold and metallic, Earl Slick plays these soaring leads that are almost haunting. Dave LeBolt’s keys perfectly embellish the music and give it a bit of an upgrade, a stunning version of the song. Ashes To Ashes and Space Oddity are played back to back giving listeners the complete Major Tom story, the former is an excellent live version that captures the vibe of the studio version. The ending section of songs is high energy, TVC-15 and Stay have fresh sound while The Jean Genie is pure swing and the MTV hit Modern Love finishes an incredible performance and one can only assume but the musicians must have been exhausted after concerts like this.

The packaging is excellent, full color inserts with Let’s Dance style graphics. Jim R did not take photos so Wardour uses stock live shots from the tour. I got a sticker and the pictures on the CD’s are reminiscent of the one used on the cover. This is a stunning recording of an excellent performance, I’ve been buying as many of these Millard recordings as I can afford. This Bowie title is just so good and I cannot recommend it enough.

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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