When David Bowie released the Let’s Dance album, there were a lot of reasons to be excited, but at the top of the list was the idea of seeing Stevie Ray Vaughan–the project’s biggest surprise–playing onstage with Bowie. Of course that never happened, because Vaughan either quit or was fired right before the tour started (depending on whose account you read) and was replaced by Bowie confederate Earl Slick.
But thanks to the magic of recordings of unknown origin and ambitious bootlegging fans, there is a very good recording of one rehearsal session that leaked out—Bowie himself even mentions it in his liner notes to the reissue of Stevie Ray’s Live at Montreux album—and thanks to the internet, it’s available for you to listen to on YouTube.
Keep in mind, this was a reference recording—fan scuttlebutt believes this was actually a mono recording that was ‘faked’ into stereo by a diligent archivist—so there’s no mix to speak of. The backing vocalists can be overbearing, and you’ll wish for some kind of ambiance. Some of the arrangements scream “1980s!” as loud as the trademark yellow suit Bowie adopted as his standard onstage ensemble for this tour, and things like “Cat People” have not aged well.
But Bowie is in amazing voice, the horn section was from the gods, and the recording does give you a sense of what things could have sounded like if Vaughan had been allowed to work his magic onstage. Stick with the hits, or come in at the back half of the set, and you’ll be blown away.