There's a big difference between live and recorded music, and no pop star knew this better than David Bowie. I've spent the past few days watching many of his videos and I'd like to share one particular "live" moment that "knocked my socks off."
Start by listening to a bit of his hit song "Let's Dance." (Just listen to enough to get the sound in your ears, especially the infectious rhythmic groove.)
Now here's a live version I found on a 2002 TV show called Live By Request:
When you hear the band start the song, at 32:37, you'll immediately hear how they've changed the musical style. Instead of the funky dance sound of the studio recording, they've decided to play it with a mellower, more more laid-back feeling. They're clearly enjoying playing the song like this, which I'd describe as a kind of acoustic smooth jazz groove topped with some Spanish-style guitar put in for good measure. The band is enjoying their new-found freedom to improvise, and Bowie effortlessly adapts his vocal phrasing to fit the new groove.
Most musicians would probably keep this groove for the entire song, and yes, that would be wonderful. The audience would hear a familiar song with fresh ears and the musicians themselves could keep challenging themselves while playing their usual repertoire. The ability to do this is a major benefit of live performance.
But Bowie and his band don't stop there. Watch the clip from the beginning of the song at 32:37 and check out what happens at 34:00. I won't spoil the surprise for you, other than to say that this moment gave my chills because I found it so exciting!
This moment highlights one of the reasons that Bowie touched so many people. He made hit songs but was never limited by the trappings of the music business. Without making a big deal of it, he worked both in and outside the system at one and the same time. Pretty amazing!
I hope you enjoy this magical moment as much as I did discovering it 🙂
And for your own piano playing, here are 10 ways to improve and invigorate your piano playing. Good luck!