The Age - February 18th 2004

Bowie still as sharp as ever

Rock's "Rebel Rebel" is back in Australia - and revelling in it.

David Bowie opened his first Down Under tour in 17 years with a powerhouse and fun-filled journey through a career spanning more than three decades.

Bowie served up a smorgasboard of old favourites from the 1970s and 80s to the mostly middled-aged Brisbane Entertainment Centre crowd.

But the newer material from his latest album Reality and more recent songs such as I'm Afraid of Americans were also warmly received.

Bowie won the crowd over with a thumping rendition of Rebel Rebel to open the show and he had them in the palm of his hand for the rest of the performance.

The man known as The Thin White Duke was anything but the intense performer of his heyday.

This was a rocker clearly enjoying himself at this stage of a world tour that has taken him more recently through the United States and New Zealand.

"This game's easy - entertainment, I love it," Bowie told the crowd before launching into The Man Who Sold the World.

It was hard to believe the slim, fit and blond figure on stage was 57 and seemingly with loads more energy than much of the audience.

Bowie and his band - guitarists Earl Slick and Gerry Leonard, bassist/singer Gail Ann Dorsey, keyboardists Mike Garson and Catherine Russell, and drummer Sterling Campbell - poured through 25 songs in the two-hour set.

The band has plenty of personality and Dorsey proved a hit singing the Freddie Mercury vocals on Under Pressure.

Garson provided a solo piano accompaniment for Bowie on Life on Mars while the guitar duo of Slick and Leonard came to the fore during Bowie's cover of the Velvet Underground's White Light, White Heat.

Bowie and his band supposedly have around 50 songs in their arsenal for this tour.

In his Australian tour opener though there was no Jean Genie, Sorrow, Diamond Dogs, Golden Years or Space Oddity.

But a version of Mott the Hoople's All the Young Dudes, the funky disco anthem Fame, China Girl, Ashes to Ashes and Heroes were among the mixture of old and new to keep the punters pleased.

©2004 AAP