Calgary Sun - Thursday, January 22, 2004

Stardust memories

Legendary rock star David Bowie thrills 'Dome crowd

By Mike Bell

Saddledome, Calgary
Wednesday, January 21, 2004

CALGARY - More than a decade has passed since the Thin White Duke last wowed a crowd at the Saddledome.

It was David Bowie's Sound + Vision Tour, which, the icon promised, was the last time he would haul out his two decade's worth of recorded rock history.

Guess what?

He lied.

And guess what else?

Nobody cares.

Certainly not any of the 13,000 fans, old and new, who showed up for his return engagement last night in support of his latest release, Reality.

For many, it was the first time hearing live versions of hits such as Rebel Rebel, Fame, Under Pressure, "Heroes", Suffragette City, and Ziggy Stardust. But then again, so bloody brilliant a performer is Bowie that he can make all of those songs seem like it's the very first time you're hearing them.

It's a testament to how good an entertainer he is, and it's the reason he's lasted so long.

Unlike other classic rock acts that haul their creaky, cob-webbed nostalgia through town for a quick, callous buck, the 57-year-old Bowie actually seems to enjoy what he's doing and, what's more, actually seems to be in the moment.

He stopped the intro to China Girl short because the sing-a-long from the audience wasn't to his liking, mothering as he did, "That was (expletive) tragic."

There was this larger-than-life figure in a larger-than-life setting singing larger-than-life songs and coming across totally genuine, totally human and totally turned on.

Of course, his superlative, brutally tight and rocket-charged six-piece band had to help, as did the new material, which he unapologetically filled in the gaps with.

The tracks from his most recent releases, Heathen and Reality - both albums that, while far from cutting edge, nonetheless keep Bowie entirely valid - stood alongside the oldies remarkably well, as did a couple of well-chosen covers, including The Pixies' Cactus and Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat.

Although not appreciated by some, the new cuts may even have infused the classics and the ageless legend himself with an extra spark, an extra dose of infectious energy.

Simply put, it was everything one would want from an arena rock show - great sound, great light show, great visuals, great songs and, most importantly, a great rock star in incredible form.

Somehow, Macy Gray fell out of favour with the record-buying public (maybe it was her daft appearance in Spider-Man).

Gray's still the same raspy throated chanteuse that shot to fame with her 1999 debut On How Life Is; she's still an erratically original and entertaining R&B artist, yet somehow even with a decent new record, The Trouble With Being Myself, she's all but dropped off the map.

Hopefully, in the minds of those who showed up for her fabulous 45-minute opening set, that's changed. Taking everything into account, it didn't sound, look or feel like an opening set but rather a super-stylish, ultra-sexy funk and soul revue.

Kudos to Bowie for letting Gray go all out, and to Macy for putting on one wonderfully invigorating, albeit woefully short performance.

With the new year only three weeks old, it's hard to imagine a better Saddledome show in 2004.