News of Delaware County - April 1st 2004

Bowie shines at Philly show

By Michael Beirne

All you need to know about David Bowie's "Reality" tour is his set list.

He began Monday night's rescheduled show at the Wachovia Center with "Rebel Rebel" and encored "Five Years," "Suffragette City" and "Ziggy Stardust." In between, he sprinkled in the best of his latest work and pulled out a couple of chestnuts in "Life On Mars" and "Quicksand."

Go ahead, kick yourself for not going (and there were empty seats). Yes, this is the accessible David Bowie, the man who fell back down to Earth.

Bowie may have lost a lot of his audience when he announced a moratorium on playing his hits in the 1990s.

That's too bad, because his last two albums (2002's Heathen and 2003's Reality) are comparable to his best work of the late '70s. While Monday was not quite a greatest hits tour, as he did a few times in the '80s, Bowie made sure all the proper crowd-pleasers were in the right spots. And they were - "Blue Jean," "China Girl," "The Man Who Sold the World," "Fame" - they were all there and all performed with gusto.

It was the newer material, however, which put a stamp on the evening and a stamp on Bowie's 2000-rock viability. Both "I'm Afraid of Americans," from Earthling and "New Killer Star," from Reality, were received very well.

Longtime Bowie backups in guitarist Earl Slick and keyboardist Mike Garson headlined the seven-piece band. Slick stayed away from the excess that almost ruined a perfectly good David Live at the Tower album, recorded right here in Upper Darby in 1974.

Monday, Garson captured much of the magic of Rick Wakeman's work from the classic Hunky Dory album on Bowie updates of "Life on Mars" and "Quicksand."

Surprisingly, Bowie did not mention anything about his extensive Philadelphia roots, which include recording the Tower and Young Americans albums here. His only nod to the city was introducing Philadelphia native and bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, who also doubled as Freddie Mercury on a delightful "Under Pressure" duo.

Bowie was very talkative and often charming. About a third of the way through "Quicksand," he backed away from the microphone and called a quick halt to the song. He said he forgot the lyrics. He plowed through "Life On Mars" before restarting "Quicksand" from the beginning again. Nice touch.

Now 57 and a father again, he has never looked so fit and trim. His pared-down look, including a very conservative hair style, was echoed by the stage set, consisting of little more than a few hanging silver branches and four giant screens showing animation and unique camera angles of the show.

Opening for Bowie was the Polyphonic Spree, consisting of a 25-member musical congregation that wears white robes and sings choral pop music.


The New York Rangers were probably more welcomed at the Wachovia Center.