Wednesday, July 29, 2009

David Bowie DVD review

David Bowie
VH1 Storytellers
(Virgin/MTV Networks)

In the opening moments of this VH1 Storytellers episode, David Bowie playfully says, “there’s so many stories I could tell you…oh, you don’t know the half of it!” Obviously the more hedonistic details from his early-to-mid ‘70s period wouldn’t have been appropriate for the program. But the British rock legend relates just enough tidbits about songs from throughout his career to fascinate diehard fans. Filmed exactly a decade ago (August 1999), it finds a youthful-looking and relaxed Bowie fronting a top-notch seven piece band.

Executive producer Bill Flanagan writes in the liner notes that upon seeing a rehearsal with only a couple hits in the set, he got worried and was reassured by Bowie that everything would work out fine. The 64-minute DVD (eight televised and four unaired performances) has four selections from the austere “Hours” album released that fall (the accompanying CD/digital audio version here is just the show portion).

A sweeping, piano-led “Life on Mars?” includes a funny anecdote about Barbara Streisand’s cover version, Bowie describes meeting T-Rex’s Marc Bolan on “Rebel Rebel” (sadly cut off by the artist after a verse/chorus) and his exploits in Berlin with Iggy Pop during “China Girl.” Mike Garson does some gorgeous ivory tickling during the latter. An ebullient “Drive In Saturday,” from 1973’s Aladdin Sane, is elevated by Holly Palmer’s doo-wop backing vocals and is worth the purchase price alone.

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