New York Newsday - 18th December 2003

Carry the News: Bowie Still Boogaloos

By Glenn Gamboa (Staff Writer)

For his finale, David Bowie stood onstage, hand over heart, like he was getting ready to sing a national anthem. In a way, he did, performing "Ziggy Stardust" - the unofficial theme of Bowiemia - which, like most of his best work, combines stadium sing-along verses and genre-advancing experimentation.

That mix summed up the bulk of Bowie's glorious two-hour mishmash of old and new, of proper British grandeur ("The Man Who Sold The World" or "Five Years") and slutty American dance music ("Fashion" and "Fame.") In theory, his current tour supports his excellent new "Reality" CD. However, at Madison Square Garden, he ended up playing only three songs from the new CD and four from "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust," which was released in 1972.

"We're kind of mixed up tonight," Bowie explained. "We kind of don't know what we're doing - old and new. We're still puzzling it out."

There wasn't any sign of ill effects from the flu that led him to postpone the first five shows on the tour, though he did tell the audience they were going to have to hit the high notes in the chorus of "All The Young Dudes," which they eagerly obliged. Bowie, 56, bounced energetically through new tracks like "New Killer Star" and his cover of The Pixies' "Cactus." He crouched like a punk rocker during "Suffragette City" and portrayed the narrator of "The Loneliest Guy" with amazing power. Oddly enough, the set could have used more new songs like that one - proving Bowie is that true rare artist whose work 35 years out can compete with his earliest hits.

The night's centerpiece was his skillful pairing of the two faces of America to the outside world. The six-piece band roared through the metallic-edged "I'm Afraid of Americans," which Bowie called "a song for today" in reference to the capture of Saddam Hussein. The crowd roared through the follow-up, "Heroes," which he said was "the flip side of the same coin."

Opener Macy Gray, in her teased-out 'fro and Christmas-red pantsuit, was a good match for Bowie, cleverly weaving pop, reggae and throwback soul into her own unique musical tapestry. Though "When I See You" and "She Ain't Right for You" from her underrated "The Trouble With Being Myself" CD showed why that charming album deserves another push from her record company next year, it was her masterful reworking of her breakthrough single "I Try" and the cunning "I've Committed Murder" that showed Gray at her best in her too-short, 45-minute set.

"I've Committed Murder" retained its island-beat underpinnings while working TV themes into the mix. "I Try" was even more impressive, seamlessly flowing from the lovely soul of the original to a faithful cover of "Sukiyaki" to a lilting reggae break before triumphantly ending in a Bob Marley sing-along.

For Gray, like Bowie, normal musical boundaries don't matter. Artistry does.

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