David Bowie – ‘Live: Santa Monica ’72’ review

We review a live album from David Bowie.

As a rule, live albums are terrible: every live Stones album, Zep’s ‘The Song Remains The Same’ and, topping the putrid pile, Bowie’s live albums (and you – yes, the thin white dude at the back – can put your hand down: you’re wrong).

This, however, is the one. For years, it was the twinkling star of bootlegs; you weren’t a true Bowie devotee without it. It had a small release in the ’90s, but is finally getting the full treatment. The reason for its position as a supernova in glam rock’s firmament is obvious from the first breathless chords of ‘Hang On To Yourself’. What you have here is the full live blossoming of Ziggy Stardust, accompanied by

Mick Ronson’s sex-imbued glitter guitar on songs that reveal new depths to – now – overplayed classics (especially a haunting ‘Five Years’ and a strident ‘Rock’N’Roll Suicide’). It’s a snapshot of a songwriter riding a comet’s tail of creativity, with ‘Aladdin Sane’’s magnificent ‘The Jean Genie’ unveiled half a year before its official release, alongside unmissable covers of The Velvet Underground and Jacques Brel.

More live albums should be like this. This is Bowie at his passionate and sexy best, before aloof archness and theatrics became his sole modus operandi. This feels real. Unlike most live albums, ‘Live Santa Monica ’72’ genuinely captures a special moment in time, rather than capturing the precise second an artist starts to exploit their audience.