LiveReview - Jan 14th 2004

Live Review: David Bowie at Rosemont Theatre, Rosemont, IL

By John Dugan

Showing no sign of the flu that caused him to postpone the launch of the American leg of his "A Reality Tour" back in early December, a tanned, blonde, perpetually smiling David Bowie took the stage just outside of Chicago on Tuesday night (1/13) and performed a luminous, 25-song set.

For much of the '80s, Bowie tried to disown the glam-rock persona he created in the '70s with Ziggy Stardust, but by now the singer has finally figured out that it is the songs - not so much the character - that his fans still connect with. For 2002's "Heathen" (ISO/Columbia), Bowie went back to working with Ziggy-era producer Tony Visconti to recapture some of the magic. And for his current tour - behind his 2003 album, "Reality" - his five-piece backing band features two vets of his early '70s bands: Mike Garson on piano/keyboards and Earl Slick on guitar.

So it's natural that Bowie blended past and present, showing many sides of his chameleon personality. He pranced at times, and he even acted out scenes from some songs, including "China Girl."

Taking the stage just before 9 p.m., Bowie kicked off the night with "Rebel Rebel" from "Diamond Dogs," then donned a white Supro electric guitar for "New Killer Star." Over the course of the night, Bowie drew heavily from "Reality" and his '70s catalog, with only a few '80s hits and '90s curiosities thrown in.

Throughout the night, Bowie's vocal prowess was awe-inspiring. Not only did he project, but he injected even well-worn favorites with subtleties, choosing alternate notes to liven things up in tunes such as "All the Young Dudes" and "Suffragette City" without compromising the songs.

Taking good-natured jabs at Chicago - "You wouldn't know a tan if you saw one. Face it." - and quizzing the audience on its knowledge of modern architecture - "Do you like Louis Sullivan?" - were all part of this effortlessly charismatic performance.

Bowie's self-effacing humor peaked in "Fame," when he mimed healing the audience and band members. Schooled as a mime himself, Bowie quipped sarcastically that practicing that lost art is "the real danger that makes us so edgy." Bowie also laughed off a gaffe, singing a half-verse twice in "All the Young Dudes." He sang the proper half-verse with guitar accompaniment just a minute later to make sure he nailed it the next time.

Some of Bowie's more challenging material, such as "Battle for Britain" from "Earthling" and the abrasive, industrial "I'm Afraid of Americans," sounded bombastic. But they provided a contrast to an assured encore of "Pablo Picasso," "Five Years," "Suffragette City" and a grand "Ziggy Stardust."

David Bowie plays two more shows in Chicago before heading westward for a dozen more North American dates. The tour continues with 11 shows in Australia and Japan in February and March, before picking up again for make-up dates in Philadelphia on March 29.

A Reality Tour is David Bowie's most extensive tour since his 1990 "Sound+Vision" outing. Macy Gray is the special guest on some dates.