Spectrum Theatre, Philadelphia, PA, USA – November 18, 1974
(80:24) Rebel Rebel, John, I’m Only Dancing (Again), Sorrow, Changes, Moonage Daydream, Can You Hear Me, Young Americans, 1984, Foot Stompin’, Rock And Roll With Me, Love Me Do / Jean Genie, Somebody Up There Likes Me, Suffragette City, Rock And Roll Suicide, Diamond Dogs. Bonus Tracks: Rehearsal demos recorded by Ava Cherry and the Astronettes in London from December 1973 to January 1974. Both Tracks Written By David Bowie: I Am A Laser, People From Bad Homes
David Bowie’s live output in 1974 began originally as a hugely theatrical affair in support of Diamond Dogs, released in April of that same year. Taking the Rock superstar theme to a new level, the set structure and thematic representations presented by “Halloween Jack” made for one of the most ambitious tours in the history of Rock. An essential piece of this time period is the Cracked Actor documentary from this tour, intertwined with interviews with Bowie at the time and superb live footage give an excellent snapshot to his drug influenced state of mind. The tour would cause strain between Bowie and his band as the toll the performance would take on him physically would lead him to scrap the elaborate sets and by October the stripped down concerts were refereed to as “The Soul Tour”. During this time David was extremely influenced by the lush sounds referred to as the “Philly Sound”, the incredible Black Soul Music coming from Philadelphia, and would take this influence into the studio also during this time, the results was the Young Americans record, music dubbed “Plastic soul”.
Bowie would play the Spectrum twice in November on the 18th and 25th, the latter was not a sell out but has circulated in a fair to good recording. This new title focuses on the first concert on the 18th. It comes from a recently excavated source, here is a bit of the back story of how this recording made it here:
So the story goes: I answered an ad on Craigslist for 500 free Grateful Dead tapes. On picking them up from the taper, I’m also informed he and a friend recorded other bands through the ’70s. These were never circulated, and deemed inferior in quality. When I inquired about digitizing his masters, he laughingly obliged, and so far I have four shows completed. Some of the old Ampex and BASF tapes are in poor shape, one completely off the spool, and several squealing badly. I will be presenting the ones of superior quality only, out of the initial batch he loaned me.
The recording is a very good audience source, it is clear and detailed but lacks dynamics sounding like a faded document of sorts. It does also capture the atmosphere quite well, certainly one of the better documents of this period. There has been one other release of this material that was freely available on various torrent sites, Philadelphia 1974: The Soul / Philly Dogs Tour (Wardour-234). The audience seem to be really enjoying themselves, you can hear them clapping in the distance and the atmosphere is really great. It was a lot to ask of Rock audiences who wanted to see and hear Bowie’s distinct musical vision and were now treated to a soul review, now we listen to this era and realize it was as unique as Let’s Dance was closer to a decade later.
Bowie is in decent voice for this concert and seems relaxed and enjoying himself, incredible how his voice blended almost naturally to this music, the concerts were a mix of Rock and the Philly sound, Earl Slick’s guitar blending perfectly with the Sax playing of David Sanborn and Richard Grando, specifically on Will You Rock And Roll With Me. David tells the audience this would be his last time in America for some time as he was going to the Amazon! A woman close to the taper screams for Jean Genie, she must have seen a previous show and knew it was coming. The setlist is standard for this tour and is built around re envisioned classics, cuts from Diamond Dogs as well as a couple new songs, Rebel Rebel gets it sounds like they don’t sit down till the end of Diamond Dogs. The concerts are short, something David also took criticism from as well. Other set highlights for me are the ever great Moonage Daydream, 1984, and a levitating Suffragette City that has the audience helping on the choruses.
There are two bonus tracks which are interesting. Just prior to recording Diamond Dogs Bowie was looking to get a Soul vocal group, The Astronettes, off the ground. One of the singers was his then girlfriend Ava Cherry, Bowie had written at least four known songs and recordings were made before the project was shelved. The recordings would eventually see the light of day on the semi legit People From Bad Homes record. The recordings have excellent sound and while interesting, one can see why the project was shelved, Ava has a beautiful voice but the passion does not come through.
The packaging is mini LP sleeve with live shots of Bowie from 1974, several of the shots look out of place as he had stopped using many of the props by this point. The insert has nice liner notes, the portion on the two bonus tracks was informative. For those looking for one of the better sounding concerts from Bowie’s Soul period, this concert is well worth seeking out.