Moonlight Serenade (Vintage Masters Premium VM004A/B)
Montreal Forum, Montreal, Quebec, Canada – July 12th, 1983
Disc 1: 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 2: Station To Station, Cracked Actor, Ashes To Ashes, Space Oddity, band intros., Young Americans, Cat People, TVC15, Fame, Rock N Roll Star, Stay, The Jean Genie, I Can’t Explain, Modern Love
David Bowie’s Serious Moonlight tour in 1983 was his first in almost five years. With the success of the Let’s Dance LP, he made a conscious attempt to present a more commercial and accessible stage show in keeping with his new found broad mass appeal. Two of the first three shows on the North American leg of the world tour were taped professionally by the King Biscuit Flower Hour and forty-five minutes were edited from the July 13th show at the Montreal Forum for national broadcast. The complete tape from that date has been released several times with the latest more than a decade ago by The Swingin’ Pig on Serious Moonlight (TSP-CD-221-2), one of the last titles by the original people. The broadcast version and the previously never before heard complete tape from the previous evening on July 12th were posted on Wolfgang’s Vault and Vintage Masters Premium, on Moonlight Serenade, offer this show in a pressed edition for the very first time.
The sound quality is clear enough like the other tapes from the vault but isn’t perfect. Bowie’s vocals sound a little low in the mix at times, as do the horn section, plus the audience sounds far away. During the first two songs “Look Back In Anger” and “Breaking Glass” there is intermittent interference from what sounds like either the venue’s security or Bowie’s road crew. This tape was never used by the KBFH and these are probably the reasons why. However imperfect it is, it is a bonus to finally have this concert available in reasonably good quality.The Serious Moonlight tour occurs at the earliest peak of Bowie’s popularity and this visit lasted for several months, ending on September 17th in Oakland. He assembled a tight touring band which includes David LeBott on keyboards, Carlos Alomar on guitar, Earl Slick on lead guitar, Carmen Rojas on bass, Tony Thompson on drums with Joyce and Kevin Simms on backing vocals and the Tower Of Power in the horn section including Lenny Pickett on sax, Stan Harrison on baritone sax, Steve Elson on tenor sax.
The horn section adds a more warm effect to the show which was the intention, as Bowie stated in an interview at the time when he said, “Before, I’ve had up to three synthesizers onstage. The music had sort of industrial, mechanized-sounding connotations to it. That’s another aspect that I wanted to lighten up on. I wanted to retain the human identity: me, selecting my music, and sort of expound on that. Trying just to ease off and lighten up on the whole nihilistic thing. That thing was dangerous to me and it’s not something I particularly want to be connected with anymore. I didn’t come out of it very well and I doubt too many other people did. Or will. But you learn.” Only four songs, “China Girl”, “Cat People”, “Modern Love”, and the title track “Let’s Dance” from the new album are played. The rest of the set list consists of older hits. Three songs, “TVC15”, “I Can’t Explain”, and “Red Sails” would be dropped by the end of the tour. The actual concert is technically proficient but there is an unexplainable coolness in the air that might be due to this being such an early show in the tour.
Three lesser-known songs, “Look Back In Anger”, “Breaking Glass” and “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)” open the show and the songs are played in very rapid fashion. An early highlight is the cover of the 1967 Pretty Things’ hit “Sorrow” which Bowie originally covered for 1973’s Pin Ups. “Golden Years” follows directly into “Fashion” which is a logical transition since the latter is essentially a re-write of the former, sharing the bass line and a similar melody. “Fashion” is played in its shortened, single format. It really isn’t until “China Girl”, a song Bowie wrote and was recorded originally by Iggy Pop, that he begins to show any passion in his voice and delivers a remarkable performance. “Station To Station” begins the second set (after a usual twenty minute intermission). The set list is characterized by interesting pairings but “Ashes To Ashes” followed by “Space Oddity” is the strangest, with the sequel played first.
Bowie mentioned this in the same interview quoted above when he says, “The only ones I put together consciously under that kind of dramatic effect would be ‘Space Oddity’ and ‘Ashes to Ashes’ or the other way around. I think I place them because their moods either worked against each other or matched each other. Or one reflected on the last song and anticipated the next song. It’s their moods rather than the importance of my own work.” The first encore is the cover of The Who’s “I Can’t Explained” followed by the song that gave the name of the tour “Modern Love”. On the whole Moonlight Serenade isn’t a bad release and the label is to be commended for not tampering with the tape. There are however much better documents from this tour in circulation and this will be good for those who are committed to collecting Bowie.