The Australian - February 17th 2004

Reality cheque for shipshape Bowie

By Iain Shedden

DAVID Bowie wasn't about to be upstaged by another British icon. "I'd like to thank Cunard for sponsoring today's event," he joked, standing in the shadows of luxury liner Queen Elizabeth II at Sydney Harbour yesterday.

The singer was speaking on the eve of his first Australian tour in 17 years. A relaxed, good-humoured Bowie sparred with journalists at a press conference in The Rocks, saying he was "a more relaxed performer" than in the 70s heyday of his Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane personas.

"The current show is very unencumbered," he said, "but I love writing little theatrical things, so I can see me doing that in the future. Whether I'd be in it is another matter. Maybe I'd write for somebody else... Boy George perhaps."

The Reality tour has played to great critical acclaim in Europe and the US, as Bowie enjoys a career renaissance on the back of the accompanying Reality album released last year. By the end of the tour he will have performed to almost 5 million people.

The singer, 57, said he was inspired in his work after becoming a father again in 2000. He and wife Iman have a daughter, Alexandria.

"My writing has taken a turn for the positive," he said.

Bowie launched his assault on the pop charts with his song Space Oddity in 1969, just as the QE2 was making its maiden voyage. Since then he has proved to be one of the world's most enduring rock stars, enjoying success with albums such as Hunky Dory, Heroes, Let's Dance and more recently, Heathen and Reality.

Concurrent with his musical success he has enjoyed mixed reviews as an actor, with leading roles in movies such as The Man Who Fell to Earth and Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. These days he is content to make acting a secondary consideration.

"Russell (Crowe) can sleep safely," he said. "I'd love to be a movie star but you have to work so hard at it ... acting and all that. I don't think I have the commitment for it."

The Reality tour is partly promoted by American radio conglomerate Clear Channel, a slight irony since Bowie is no longer a fixture of mainstream radio. He's not too concerned.

"I've come to expect that over the past few years," he said. "I don't rely on radio play, I rely more on word of mouth now about how good we are on stage... which of course we are."

Bowie's Reality tour begins in Brisbane tonight and travels to Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth.