Financial Times - 21st October 2003

Music: David Bowie

A Reality Tour

By Paul Sexton

Never motivated by half-measures, David Bowie's first world tour proper since 1995 has 17 countries in its sights over a seven-month campaign. On record, too, he is in his most productive form for a decade, with a fine new album, Reality.

The tour arrived in France this week, eight shows into a 32-date European leg that comes to Britain in mid-November. Bowie is 56, but has an almost teenage enthusiasm and vigour. Rarely can a rock legend have been sighted having such brazen fun with his own past without descending into nostalgia for its own sake.

The vast Palais Omnisports, an 18,000-capacity sellout, is the kind of hangar in which good entertaining intentions can fade. But with the sonic choreography of a brilliantly cohesive band, a 135-minute concert became an intimate party.

Encouraged by the arch-chameleon's own use of the word "reality", much has been made of the absence of theatrical artifice in his present persona. If this is indeed the real David Bowie, he's as congenial a host as you'd wish to meet, popping out for random house calls on his previous characters as the old friends he now considers them to be.

Hence a storming start with "Jean Genie", the lean and elegant frontman blowing some edgy harmonica, and a chunky "Fame", punctuated by "New Killer Star".

Way above the stage, five small video screens offered a sparing selection of pre-filmed images and effects, as "China Girl", "Ashes To Ashes", "Fashion" and other classics were happily assimilated amid the recent "Cactus", "The Motel" and the after-hours jazz sophistication of "Bring Me The Disco King".

The closing "Suffragette City" and "Ziggy Stardust" were presented with affection, not obligation, by an artist who has introduced his past to his future with compelling effect.

Tour continues to Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and Ireland and the US.