The Age - February 22nd 2004

The not-so-thin white duke

Reviewer: Christine Sams

David Bowie:
Sydney Entertainment Centre: February 20
Rod Laver Arena: 26-27 February

Baz Luhrmann was on his feet playing air guitar and seasoned music critics were punching the air with glee. But all eyes were on David Bowie, the 57-year-old music star, who was on stage in Sydney for the first time in 16 years.

Bowie had the rock star swagger of a 20-year-old when he strolled on stage, opening with his classic hit Rebel Rebel. It is nearly 40 years since Bowie, born David Jones, began recording albums in his native Britain, but age has obviously not wearied the Thin White Duke.

"He's just incredibly cool, he's still soooo cool," gushed one fan.

Many fans were seemingly astonished by Bowie's onstage charisma after all these years. Bowie seemed to enjoy the performance, and his enthusiasm was infectious.

In between performing songs including The Man Who Sold the World (the track he described as his breakthrough hit in the early 1970s) and current tracks from his album Reality, Bowie seemed delighted by the warm reception from the crowd.

He eagerly pointed out a fan waving a wooden crutch in the air, and declared: "This is such an extraordinary country."

Fans expecting a sprinkle of Ziggy Stardust were not disappointed. Even in his black jeans and dark T-shirt, Bowie evoked his best-known glam rock character simply by using his voice, posture and facial expressions. It was performance artistry at its best.

Standout songs during the two-hour show included a searing version of I'm Afraid of Americans, written for his 1997 album Earthling, that is "even more relevant now", according to Bowie.

The biggest hit of the show was Under Pressure, the duet Bowie originally recorded with Queen singer Freddie Mercury. The performance with Gail Ann Dorsey, a member of his backing band who performed Mercury's vocals, was simply extraordinary.