Stage is David Bowie's second live album, recorded on the Isolar II world tour, and released by RCA Records in 1978. First UK pressings were on translucent yellow vinyl and some European pressings were also available on blue vinyl. Though it was rumoured at the time that this would be his final outing with the label, following dissatisfaction over the promotion of Low and "Heroes", Bowie would in fact remain with RCA until 1982.
Generally considered more relaxed than Bowie's previous live album, David Live (1974), Stage was praised on its initial vinyl release for the fidelity with which the band was able to emulate in concert the electronic and effects-filled numbers from Low and "Heroes", as well as for the singer's vocal performance. However, it was criticised for lacking a 'live' atmosphere, thanks to the recording being largely taken from direct instrument and microphone feeds which increased sound quality but minimised crowd noise. The original concert running order was also changed, with fades between tracks similar to a studio album.
As Bowie rarely tampered with the arrangements – in contrast to his method on David Live – Stage added little to what was available on the original albums, and hence was seen by some commentators as simply a marketing exercise that did not do justice to a memorable series of live concerts. Even the cover picture came in for criticism, more so because the rest of the package contained only variations of the same shot.
Stage reached No. 5 in the UK album charts but only No. 44 in the US. "Breaking Glass," which originally appeared in shorter form on Low, was released as a single.
A 2005 reissue saw most of the criticisms of the original LP addressed, and the new version garnered some favourable reviews.
The album is included in The Quietus' list of its writers' "40 Favourite Live Albums".
Stage has been rereleased on CD three times to date, the first being in 1984 by RCA Records, then in 1991 by Rykodisc (containing a bonus track) and most recently in 2005 by EMI. The running order of the latter edition reflects the actual performance, removed fades between tracks, and included two more bonus tracks: in addition to "Alabama Song," already added in 1991, the double CD also includes "Be My Wife" and "Stay."
The 1991 edition was awarded three stars out of five in Q: "Performances are faster than the studio originals and suffer for it; what they gain in live jauntiness - not exactly a quality they were crying out for - they lose in power and intensity."
The 1984 rerelease on CD (catalogue number PD89002, Made in Germany - there was no Japanese or North America release of this album) contains the same running order as the original LP, and comes on two discs. (Some of the European-distributed CDs were manufactured in Japan, but cover and assembling were made in Europe. Most of the CDs were made in Germany).
The 2005 re-issue features the original order in which the concerts took place, although some songs which were performed during the four recorded nights are not on the album, including "The Jean Genie," "Suffragette City" and "Rebel Rebel".