Toronto Star - August 2002

Bowie - a uniting force

Area2 festival audience takes to the former Ziggy Stardust

By Ben Rayner

Mixing the tribes is a noble fool's pursuit in this day and age, but good on Moby for trying - and very nearly succeeding - to unite at least a couple of fragmented generations of music fans with his roving Area2 festival.

When we last encountered Area: One at the Docks a year ago, the sweet-natured post-techno auteur had a well-intentioned near-disaster on his hands with logistical cock-ups...

While at least 15,000 made it out for the festival's sophomore bow, headlined by its creator and the artistically resurgent David Bowie - but not with a major hip-hop act lost to the Canadian border authorities, larger-than-life rapper Busta Rhymes - at the Molson Amphitheatre yesterday, the crowd's "raver" quotient was visibly smaller than last year's and lineups for the sprawling, remarkably well air-conditioned DJ tent were nonexistent.

The tent raged all day long... But it was 55-year-old Bowie who proved the one real uniting force of the day.

The kids certainly took to the former Ziggy Stardust with an enthusiasm that wasn't terribly apparent for the baffling earlier mainstage appearance of Stomp-ish Intel pitchmen the Blue Man Group.

Curiously, too, it wasn't the Bowie classics that went over best, although a closing run at "Ziggy" certainly left the throng on a high note. Rather, it was later material - the electro-shocked "I'm Afraid Of Americans" and "Hallo Spaceboy," the '80s standard "Let's Dance," a massive cover of Neil Young's "I've Been Waiting For You" and the brooding title track from his excellent new Heathen disc - that kept most of the crowd on its feet.

The beaming Bowie was in good spirits, too, offering to sell discount Stylophones to the crowd and borrowing sunglasses from an audience member to survive the sunset without blindness. After that, Area2's diminutive curator seemed a tad overshadowed.

Although it's tough not to like at least some of his nice-guy, jump-around techno karaoke shtick. Moby kept things up, mostly eschewing his aggressively sombre new album 18 (save the awesome "We Are All Made Of Stars") for a representative helping of dance classics from Everything Is Wrong and the hit Play.

He had reason to be cheerful, though. He's got a good thing going. If he sticks with it, it could be great. On this side of the planet, anyway.