Reuters - December 14th 2003

Bowie Bounces Back with Tour Opener in Montreal

By Dean Goodman

Battling a few sniffles, a relaxed David Bowie kicked off his first major North American tour in eight years in Montreal on Saturday after scrapping his first five shows because of the flu.

"I didn't know if I could do the show tonight; I felt really ill, to be honest with you," Bowie, 55, revealed near the end of his 110-minute set at the Bell Canada Center.

But, in his words, the show turned out to be "really memorable" as he performed hits from all facets of a diversified career spanning almost 40 years.

The North American leg of his awkwardly titled "A Reality" world tour was supposed to begin on Dec. 6 in Atlantic City, with a show the next day in Washington, D.C.. But both were canceled at the last minute with news that doctors had confined him to bed. Subsequent shows in Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto were also put off. None has been rescheduled.

Dressed simply in black designer T-shirt, tight black jeans held up with a floppy brown leather belt, sneakers and a ragged ascot, the British rocker drank from a few bottles of Gatorade, took some pills in the wings and blew his nose.

But his illness did not appear to affect his voice, which he stretched to its fullest on such classics as "Life on Mars" and "All the Young Dudes." He apologized in French for his poor command of the language, smiled at fans in vintage tour t-shirts, and caught a bouquet of flowers, but he drew the line at a Disney stuffed toy offered to him.

Bowie began his world tour with a European leg in Copenhagen on Oct. 7. After North America, he will travel early next year to New Zealand, Australia and Japan, and then return to Europe in the summer for some festival dates.

He is touring in support of his latest album, "Reality," which spent just four weeks in the U.S. top 200 album charts. But his shows have won critical raves for a diverse set list and his willingness to dig up rarely performed tunes.

His Montreal set ranged from early songs like "The Man Who Sold the World" and "Fame" to several songs from "Reality," including the Grammy-nominated "New Killer Star." His 1990s techno tune "I'm Afraid of Americans" went down well with the Canadian crowd. But, after claiming "there are always two sides to every story," the New York resident followed it with "Heroes," an apparent homage to his adopted countrymen.

Bowie ended his set with a three-sing encore drawn from his 1972 album "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars." With a "merci beaucoup, au revoir," he took a bow with his six bandmates, and left the stage.

Health permitting, Bowie is scheduled to play Madison Square Garden in New York City on Monday.