Author: Bruce Jenkins  Date Posted:28 June 2024 


Since the death of David Bowie in January 2016 there has been a steady stream of live and archival recordings to comfort fans and ensure that an equally steady stream of gold continues flowing into the Gringott’s bank vault of the Bowie Estate. Some were released with great fanfare and to considerable acclaim, others seemed tailored to the passions of more committed fans. In the latter category is pseudo-boxed set Brilliant Live Adventures (1995-1999). It has an interesting history.

A collection to compliment the Brilliant Adventure (1992—2001) mostly-studio box, Brilliant Live Adventures comprised six albums recorded during the second half of the 90s. The first offering, Ouvrez Le Chien (Live Dallas 95), was originally available only via digital services. Then there was a limited edition CD and LP release (July 2020), then an empty box to house the complete set (October 2020). The empty box sold out quickly, necessitating the bizarre commercial response of reissuing a cardboard container with no contents. The other albums in the box came out over the following six months. 

We are focussing on the first in this series, the concert recorded live in Dallas, Texas in October 1995 as part of the Outside World Tour. For openers, the odd title deserves an explanation. "Ouvrez Le Chien" is French for "open the dog"—make of that what you will—and references a line in the classic 1970 Bowie song "All The Madmen". That’s it. Not much of an explanation but all we have. For this tour, Bowie co-headlined with Nine Inch Nails, which may seem an unlikely  pairing until it is remembered that the 90s were Bowie’s deconstruction decade. He had formed, recorded, toured and disbanded Tin Machine and then released the solo album Black Tie White Noise, exploring his own experimental inclinations. Then came Outside, where Bowie renewed his collaborative journey with Brian Eno. This often overlooked 1995 album had industrial and art-rock elements, making the pairing with NIN less surprising than it might have otherwise appeared.

On tour, Bowie had always re-invented and re-interpreted his own past. Perhaps not as radically as Bob Dylan, but certainly enough to keep himself, his band, and audiences entertained. The Outside tour was no exception, and Dallas 95 is full of full-on reworked songs from both the recent studio album and that rich back catalogue. 

"Look Back In Anger" opens the album. A collaboration with Eno and single from the Lodger album, its impassioned squall sets the tone brilliantly. Four tracks from Outside follow, then an excitingly roughed up version of "Andy Warhol" from Hunky Dory. It’s a trip of great variety, full of twists and turns. The juxtaposition of a haunted "The Man Who Sold The World" (1970) with trip-hop/drum and bass track "We Prick You" (1995) illustrates how there is not a gram of complacency in the entire set. It’s art rock with a whiff of oil fumes and a rumble of unforgiving machinery somewhere in the distance. So when, late in the concert, they launch into a celebratory "Under Pressure"—Gail Ann Dorsey taking the Freddie Mercury part—it is unexpected yet delightful. 

Ouvrez Le Chien (Live Dallas 95) cannot be considered essential Bowie, yet for those who love his incredible musical legacy and enjoy discovering the byways as well as the highways, this is a very enjoyable set. In fact, you might well find yourself wanting to break into the vault and seize more archival Bowie. There is gold there for the taking.


© Bruce Jenkins—June 2024

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