Taken from an August 1999 performance, David Bowie’s VH1 Storytellers provides a glimpse at the charismatic entertainer on an intimate platform. It is unique to hear Bowie tell stories and share smiles with the audience and one gets the impression that he’s really, truly at home in his surroundings.
This is, of course, a kinder and gentler Bowie. Long gone is the Ziggy Stardust get-up and in its place is a comfortable hoodie. The performance finds him right on the cusp of releasing the introspective 'Hours…', so it probably fits that Bowie is mellow and seemingly at peace with himself and the world.
The release is packaged as a CD/DVD set and the full performance is a slim eight songs. The DVD thankfully includes a program of twelve songs, including “Always Crashing in the Same Car.”
While the relaxed renderings of tracks like “China Girl” make for interesting listening, it’s really the stories and the banter that most people want to experience. Bowie’s memories and stories cover warmhearted territory, with the singer in full entertainer mode complete with impressions and witticisms.
One particular story about a lavatory at a dive bar offers the program’s most amusing line: “If it’s good enough for Shirley Bassey, it’s good enough for you.”
Two out of the eight tunes from the original broadcast are taken from ‘Hours…’ and the rest of the tracks don’t exactly provide much of a well-rounded encounter with his best work. Bowie briefly launches in to a half-assed “Rebel Rebel,” but cuts it off after thirty seconds and an audience sing-along.
Bowie’s VH1 Storytellers has a very adult-contemporary vibe to it, which fits the stage and surroundings well enough but may not satisfy his more voracious fans. There’s literally no edge to the performance and, while the vocals are good enough, there aren’t many musical moments of memory.
That’s not to say that there aren’t a few surprises, however. The appearance of “Can’t Help Thinking About Me” makes for one of the most rousing moments of the night, as Bowie launches full-on into the Lower Third single.
Overall, though, Bowie’s VH1 Storytellers is an interesting but generally bland experience. While it is distinctively bizarre to watch the audience lamely “rock out” to his tuned-down versions, there just isn’t enough here to justify purchasing this CD/DVD set.