Calgary Herald - January 22, 2004

Beautiful Bowie

57-year-old singer proves rock isn't only for the young

By Heath McCoy

One thing David Bowie has never been is predictable. The man who sang of "Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes," all those years ago has more than fulfilled the tune's promise throughout his nearly 40-year career.

Whether playing the role of a glam-rock alien or a slick MTV star, among his many incarnations, Bowie's career has largely been an ongoing work of performance art.

So, what Bowie did Calgary get Wednesday night at the Saddledome?

A no-frills performer for the most part, which wasn't disappointing, because the man is nearly as charismatic as the many identities he has assumed.

And, as he proved, his tunes - past and present - stand up just fine without the theatre.

Backed up by a muscular six-piece band, Bowie kicked off his set with the glam classic Rebel Rebel, as a crowd of about 12,000 that included baby boomers, gen-Xers and high school kids went nuts in unison.

Slim, cavalier and cocky, looking a good 20 years younger than his age of 57, the guy seemed the epitome of cool; never once a caricature of his former self, like so many aging rock stars.

Next up was the excellent New Killer Star and the thrusting, explosive Reality off his latest album of the same name.

And guess what? The latest stuff holds its ground bloody well next to the old.

A large portion of the crowd was politely waiting for him to launch into another classic, but Bowie stood his ground and challenged them.

Either way, heads were bobbing again soon enough when the band played a cool, funky version of Fame. China Girl, wasn't at all (expletive) tragic" as Bowie joked it was, and All The Young Dudes was a thing of glam beauty.

The Man Who Sold The World was sexy, deep and textured, and the old duet recorded with Queen, Under Pressure, was killer, with bassist Gail Ann Dorsey singing the late Freddie Mercury's parts.

A stripped-down piano ballad take of Life On Mars? was a highlight of an evening full of them, with Bowie's suave croon at peak strength.

Tellingly, another high point was Cactus, an intense Pixies cover off the 2002 album Heathen.

The mournful Sunday off the same disc did drag and White Light, White Heat was a bit too clinical, but the low points were rare.

Throughout the night Bowie maintained a warm rapport with the audience, in one instance razzing a dude who apparently had the word "Radical" written on his shirt.

Nearly everything Bowie did, his fans seemed to soak up with delight. With some, the icon clearly could do no wrong, as with the handful of folks who painted themselves up like Ziggy Stardust, Bowie's early '70s glam self.

Most of these were grownups, mind you. Good on 'em.

Bowie's encore included the poignant, surreal ballad Bring Me The Disco King [Ed. The Loneliest Guy], the '80s hit Blue Jean, and a punky Hang On To Yourself.

Some say rock is a game for the young. They're usually quite right.

Wednesday night, however, Bowie knocked that type of agist thinking out. Flat out.

Review: David Bowie performed a sold-out show Wednesday at the Pengrowth Saddledome. Attendance: About 12,000.