The Manchester Evening News - 17th Nov 2003

David Bowie @ M.E.N. Arena

***** (Five Star rating)

By Eric Jackson

DAVID Bowie used to be on another planet as the spaced-out space cadet Ziggy Stardust. He mused about life on Mars and observed that planet Earth was blue, yet there was nothing he could do.

That was in the seventies. Now, around 30 years later, he hardly seems to have aged, is performing better than ever and is still on another planet in terms of quality compared to any other solo artist.

Watching him at the sold-out MEN Arena last night, at the start of his "Reality" UK tour, was to be in the presence of something very special indeed. He did fast, he did slow; he did old, he did new; he did rock, he did spine-tingling a cappella. But whatever the style - and Bowie has dozens - there was neither a bum note nor a misjudged song.

He started with Rebel Rebel and encored with the rapturously-received Ziggy Stardust, two early classics, and in between he took us on a mesmerising odyssey through his diverse repertoire, all the while strutting the stage like a 25-year-old.

He cracked a joke at his own expense, saying: "Come on kids, your grandad's here," as he waved to the younger people in the predominantly 40-something audience. But at over 50, he knew he looked better than anyone in the arena.


Wearing just plain blue jeans, baseball shoes and a brown bomber jacket, he obviously feels that these days his act needs no embellishment. His pared-down look was echoed by the stage set, which consisted of little more than a few hanging leafless silver branches and a screen showing minimalist animation.

However, while the gear and the props may be simple these days, Bowie's stagecraft is the result of detailed preparation and a serious work ethic.

He connected with the Manchester audience throughout. I don't suppose he had to inform us that he'd bought a raincoat that day from Kendals, but such banter at least shows he's making an effort.

The songs were what really mattered, though, and Bowie served up gem after gem. Life On Mars was sublime, with just Mike Garson on piano for accompaniment, and Under Pressure saw Gail Ann Dorsey, the bassist, sing the Freddie Mercury part of the duet.

It was the cue for the crowd to get on their feet, and they hardly sat down thereafter. Equally animated was Bowie who flitted between the stage and an elevated platform to whip the audience into a frenzy.

At the end he thanked the Manchester faithful for making the start of the tour such a pleasure, but really, the pleasure was all ours.

Pure genius.