The Plain Dealer - 9th January 2004

Energetic Bowie, show are aged to perfection

By John Soeder (Pop Music Critic)

David Bowie turned 57 Thursday.

You never would've guessed it, however, from his concert Wednesday night at the Cleveland State University Convocation Center.

All the young dudes had nothing on this guy.

From the moment he first strutted onstage to the tune of "Rebel Rebel" until he bid adieu two hours later with "Ziggy Stardust," a positively radiant Bowie exuded more elan than most rock 'n' rollers half his age.

The British superstar also put many of his contemporaries to shame by refusing merely to reheat his greatest hits.

Sure, the set list included fully committed renditions of "Fashion," "Fame," "China Girl," "The Man Who Sold the World," "Ashes to Ashes," "Changes" and a triumphant " 'Heroes,' " among other reliable crowd-pleasers.

But there were numerous surprises, too, including stabs at the Pixies' "Cactus" (reworked by Bowie on his 2002 album "Heathen") and the Velvet Underground's "White Light/White Heat."

An enthusiastic chorus of 8,000 fans carried the refrain of "All the Young Dudes," Mott the Hoople's Bowie-penned anthem.

"Hallo Spaceboy," "Be My Wife" and "Fantastic Voyage" were among the edgy, lesser-known numbers revisited from Bowie's back pages. "Life on Mars?" never sounded more timely. Ditto for "I'm Afraid of Americans," bravely performed at the risk of incurring Toby Keith's wrath.

Bowie strapped on an electric guitar for "New Killer Star," one of three solid selections from his latest album, "Reality." The intense title track resonated nicely, too.

"I've been right and I've been wrong / Now I'm back where I started from," Bowie sang. He launched his first U.S. tour in Cleveland in 1972.

"The Loneliest Guy," a haunting ballad, also held its own, as did the "Heathen" highlights "Sunday" and "Afraid."

Lithe and stylish as ever as he basked in the spotlight beneath a dozen skeletal trees suspended upside down above the stage, Bowie looked as good as he sounded.

His equally sharp six-piece band had longtime sidekicks Mike Garson on keyboards and Earl Slick on guitar. The rousing 1981 Bowie/Queen collaboration "Under Pressure" gave bassist Gail Ann Dorsey a chance to shine. She capably handled the late Freddie Mercury's vocal parts.

The total blam-blam culminated with a generous encore, including the glam-rock gems "Five Years" and "Suffragette City."

Nobody had a better time than the Thin White Birthday Boy himself.

"You've made a cold night very, very warm," he told the audience.

His golden years are right around the corner. But Bowie showed no signs of running for the shadows anytime soon.

Opening act Macy Gray was a treat, too.

Sporting a huge wig, the Canton-born neo-soul singer connected with her 2000 hit "I Try" and several new tunes, including "When I See You" and the lovelorn "She Ain't Right for You." Her band featured Euclid native Mike Farrell on keyboards and trumpet.