Appointment Viewing: A Brilliant Bowie Unplugged Performance



davidbowiewhitedukeMan, there’s just no escaping David Bowie these days. The man’s presence looms larger now than it ever has. There were those tribute concerts at Carnegie Hall last week that looked fantastic. There was a great Bowie tribute at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony Friday night. And he keeps showing up in newsfeeds left and right.

I get it. The guy was one of the biggest Giants in Rock ever. Personally, I keep drifting back to Bowie a lot these days, too. I’ve been listening to Blackstar quite a bit the last couple of months, and I’m starting to believe the album carries special mystical powers. I am going to keep listening to it just in case.

And then there’s this video I recently discovered. I keep coming back to this stripped-down performance as a riveting example of his breathtaking brilliance. Hell, I know I’m prone to overstatement, but I would even call this one of the greatest musical performances of any kind, ever.

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It was recorded at the Bridge School Benefit concert in California in 1996. Bowie is accompanied by two incredible musicians, Gail Ann Dorsey on bass and Reeves Gabrels on electric guitar. Bowie plays acoustic guitar, plus the bottle cap that was taped to his foot and miked. The interplay between the three musicians is spellbinding.

And that voice, my god, that voice. The emotion, the range, the power, all note perfect. Like Sinatra, like Lennon, there will never be another voice like Bowie’s. And that song, man, that song – “Though nothing will drive them away/ We can be Heroes, just for one day” – in a setting with all the Bridge School special needs families around, well it always leaves me unable to speak, it is so powerful.

It isn’t the best video quality on this clip, but the audio isn’t bad, try to watch it if you can. Enjoy. And I’m sure Mr. Bowie would want me to remind you to consider donating to the Bridge School, a very worthy institution deserving of our support.

Photo: By Jean-Luc (originally posted to Flickr as David Bowie) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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