David Bowie performed ‘Let’s Dance’ throughout 1983’s Serious Moonlight tour, the name of which was taken from the song’s lyrics.
He duetted with Tina Turner on the song at the NEC in Birmingham, England, on 23 and 24 March 1985. The first of these was released on Turner’s 1988 album Tina Live in Europe, and on the 1994 CD/video box set Tina Live – Private Dancer Tour.
Bowie sang ‘Let’s Dance’ on the Glass Spider and Sound + Vision tours in 1987 and 1990 respectively, but thereafter it was dropped from his live set until 1996.
His decision to distance himself from Let’s Dance soured his relationship with Nile Rodgers. The producer was additionally hurt by what he viewed as Bowie’s failure to credit him for the album’s success.
Here’s the thing I most treasure about David Bowie: It’s no secret that there was a little bit of a rift between us because after Let’s Dance, he was on cover of Time and I don’t think my name was even mentioned once. So I was like, ‘Man, every time he talks about music, he’s always talking about his old stuff, but he’s on the cover of Time because he just sold a gazillion records and it wasn’t because of Scary Monsters.’
A few years later, I was getting an award and they chose David to give it to me. He came up onstage and said, “Ladies and gentleman, I’m proud to give this award to Nile Rodgers, the only man on Earth who get me to start a song with a chorus.” It almost brought tears to my eyes.
Rolling Stone, 12 January 2016
‘Let’s Dance’ returned unexpectedly during Bowie’s set at the Bridge School Benefit concert on 19 October 1996, an annual charity concert in aid of disabled children in Hillsborough, California. The performance had a minimalist bluesy arrangement, with Bowie playing an acoustic guitar, Reeves Gabrels on electric/synth guitar, and Gail Ann Dorsey on bass guitar and backing vocals.
This started off as a joke for you all tonight, but we kind of got to like it. In fact, we prefer this version to the original. So bear with us – you won’t believe this one!
Bowie unveiled another arrangement of ‘Let’s Dance’ during his brief summer 2000 tour, beginning the song with a sparser sound, with Mike Garson playing a Spanish guitar-style keyboard solo. This gave way to the more familiar disco-pop arrangement as Bowie reached the and of the line “trembling like a flower” (he tended to sing the word “trembling” during live performances).
This version was also performed on the Heathen and Reality tours, and can be heard on the live albums Glastonbury 2000 and A Reality Tour, as well as the bonus CD that came with initial copies of Bowie At The Beeb.