As a bit of a music fanatic, and a huge David Bowie fan, it is one of my greatest regrets that I did not get to see him perform live. When coupled with my love for the live interpretations of songs and ideas, it really was a joy to listen to Welcome to the Blackout live in London (Earl’s Court) recorded back in 1978.
The difference between the album and the live version of songs, has always excited me. It serves as a benchmark or barometer for how good the artist is as an actual musician/artist. Needless to say, Bowie more than exceeds that bar on this recording.
A little surprisingly, the performance sees Bowie still semi-locked in his ‘Thin White Duke’ persona and ‘Plastic Soul’, my personal favourite era of his music. In this brilliant performance the funk of Carlos Alomar’s guitar replaces the synthesizers of Brian Eno with a deftness perhaps not instantly note-able on comparison.
In the chronology of David Bowie, the song ‘Breaking Glass’ comes off the album Low, the second album in his triptych and iconic ‘Berlin Era’ which would help to usher in the prominence of the new romantic scene, something further enforced by the final album in the sequence Lodger which spawns the massive single ‘Ashes to Ashes’.
This performance is full of energy and spark, sounding like some raw Motown Soul. The bass of George Murray really gets stuck in, helping to drive the song forward with it’s groove. There are moments when the instrumental sections of the song get to ride out a little longer than they did on wax. It really feels like a heartfelt performance. Bowie scattering lyrics, phrases and add libs around, in what had become his style during the ‘Berlin Era’, allowing the song to breath, whilst giving each word more power, feeling and emphasises.
“Baby, I’ve been breaking Glass in your room again, listen”
“Don’t look at your carpet, I drew something awful on it, Can’t you see?”
“Such a wonderful person, but you got problems.”
“I never touched you”
He may be talking to us, himself in an attempt to battle his addictions or someone close to him. Upon reflection, and repeated listens, this song feels like it’s the sound of someone struggling to be heard.