Boston Herald - March 31, 2004

Easygoing Bowie proves even aging Rebels can rock

By Sarah Rodman

There are very few figures in rock and roll history that could be said to cut an instantly recognizable, much less sexy, silhouette.

David Bowie is most assuredly one of them.

From the moment he appeared on the stage at the FleetCenter last night - backlit in glorious white light and throwing off white-hot sparks as the piercing opening riff of "Rebel Rebel" rang out - Bowie's thin, angular frame slashed the space with sheer rock-star sex appeal.

At 57, that's not too shabby, indeed. Bowie and his super-hot sextet backed up his always stunning visual cool with a dynamic two-hour, 15-minute set that managed to weave the threads of the veteran's storied past and his still vibrant, if less celebrated present, into a thrilling whole.

In excellent and easygoing spirits, Mr. Iman roamed the stage joking with the crowd, talking up the history of a few of the songs and even poking fun at the audience's patience with his newer material.

New or old, Bowie seemed to relish playing some of these tunes trying out all his voices, from operatic croon to nasal sneer. He swiveled his slim hips to the speedy groove of "Hang On To Yourself," solemnly praised the healing power of music in post-9/11 elegy "New Killer Star," amiably encouraged a sing-along to "All the Young Dudes" and bit into the lyrics of "Fame" with a grin, jerking to the chunky backbeat supplied by Sterling Campbell.

Campbell, like most of Bowie's current band, is a veteran of several tours now, and the second-nature nuances of players who know each other well came out in the performance. Whether it was keyboardist Mike Garson's starkly beautiful accompaniment on the gorgeously sad piano ballad "The Loneliest Guy" or the interplay between guitarist Earl Slick and Jerry Leonard and Campbell on the chaotic rhythms of "Hallo, Spaceboy," they were a tight unit.

That was especially true on what could've been the night's most alienating piece, the epic, dissonant "Sunday." As Bowie climbed a side platform and began intoning about "the beginning of nothing," a cascade of warbling guitar lines spilled from Leonard's fingers. What sounded like the clatter of a radioactivity detector added to the song's post-apocalyptic vision.

Especially high praise, as usual, should go to bassist Gail Anne Dorsey, who not only provided propulsion all night but also capably filled in for the inimitable Freddie Mercury on the pop-opera drama of "Under Pressure," the song that reeled back in the crowd of 10,843 fans of many ages after "Sunday."

It was a peak that seemed hard to beat, but they started to come at a feverish pace with the downbeat acoustic classic "Quicksand" swirling into majestic harmonies, the off-kilter, haunted-house keyboards of "Ashes to Ashes" marrying r & b with spook, the cathartic technofunk of "I'm Afraid of Americans" ratcheting up the dance quotient and "Heroes" uniting the audience.

If there were missteps - a perfunctory "'Sound and Vision," the decision to play "Blue Jean," ever - they were all but forgotten by the one-two-three knockout of the encore: "Five Years," "Suffragette City" and "Ziggy Stardust."

The Polyphonic Spree opened with their blissed-out rock symphony and choir show complete with theremin and French horn.