Portsmouth Herald - 4th April 2004

Sound and Vision: Bowie throws retro dance party in Boston

By Michael Keating

David Bowie sauntered in silhouette to center stage, white light blaring from the back as the FleetCenter crowd rose to its frenzied feet with applause Tuesday night. Clapping in time to the thunderous opening riffs of a new, slower version of "Rebel Rebel" from guitarist Earl Slick, the Thin White Duke of rock returned to Boston and belted out his 30-year-old androgynous anthem - "Got your mother in a whirl/ She's not sure if you're a boy or a girl/ Hey, babe, your hair's alright/ Hey, babe, let's go out tonight".

The crowd was hooked from the get-go, and those who had come with hopes they'd get to hear the hits were not disappointed. Over the course of his two-hour-plus set, Bowie and his outstanding sextet cranked through oldies and goodies such as "Fame," "All The Young Dudes," "China Girl," "Under Pressure" and "Heroes."

The "deep cuts" were there too, such as "Hang On To Yourself," "Fantastic Voyage," "Days," "Quicksand," and a blistering full-frontal attack from the band on "I'm Afraid of Americans," complete with a quirky animation segment of boys and girls doing a combination tae kwon do break dance that had the house on its feet again. He even tossed some covers in from Boston-based bands the Pixies ("Cactus") and Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers ("Pablo Picasso") to mix things up.

The staging was a sparse multi-leveled affair, beaming with about 50 piercing strobe spotlights and a two-pronged video installation that projected images of the band as if they were being caught on cheap surveillance cameras at the checkout of a convenience store.

History has been kind to Bowie, who at 57 looks like he might quite possibly be in the best physical shape of his life. It helps that he quit smoking his "fags" a few years back, that he married a supermodel (Iman) and had a kid - all very healthy habits to replace the wild abandon of his notorious teenage wildlife. Unlike Mick Jagger, with whom he shares some salacious rumors, Bowie doesn't prance about the stage in Spandex leotards that show his butt-crack on the Jumbotron. On this night, dressed modestly akin to a modern-day pirate, he preferred to stay put mostly center stage and croon - and yes his trademark falsetto and alternating bravado bass notes hit the mark throughout.

Bowie did get into some playful banter with the crowd, especially when the more than 10,000 fans responded extremely well in their own right when asked to sing along with him on "All The Young Dudes," the hit he penned for Mott The Hoople back in 1972. He even cracked up in good grace when he tried to keep the vibe going on "China Girl," only to find within a line or two that not enough folks really knew the words. "That's OK, I'll take this one," he said.

Later, he pointed and called out to a woman in a tight white dress with humongous bazooms dancing in the second section up from stage right. "Wow, look at you darling," Bowie said as he asked for a spotlight. "Rock 'n' roll isn't dead, they just put a white dress on it." So, yes, his eyes appear to be in good shape too.

Bowie's band on this "Reality Tour" is rock steady. In addition to Slick, who goes as far back as 1974's "David Live," we got Mike Garson - another longtime touring mate - on keyboards, Jerry Leonard on second guitar, Sterling Campbell on drums, and multi-instrumentalist Catherine Russell on percussion, keyboards and guitar. Bassist Gail Anne Dorsey not only laid down the thumping beat throughout the night but helped bring the crowd back from the slow, darker interlude of songs from "Heathen" (2002), by taking Freddie Mercury's vocal part on "Under Pressure," the song Bowie wrote for Queen in 1981 when the band was hurting for a hit.

The crowd went nuts as Garson plunked the first few keys to the song and Bowie pointed toward heaven in tribute to Mercury. It was one of many highlights from this retro dance party night for the mixed crowd of old and young, funky and frumpy.

Some years back, when he was recording and touring as Tin Machine, Bowie took a page from many a pompous rock star's book and swore off from performing any of his old songs again. It was a move that ticked off a lot of tried and true fans. It's not that Bowie's recent music, from 2003's "Reality" going back to, say, 1995's "Outside" is bad, mind you (he's recorded 26 studio albums in all). It's just that when you shell out anywhere from $60 to as-many-hundreds-as-you're-silly-enough-too-spend, you want to hear the hits, the memories, and the songs that got you through the best and worst of parts of your own tragic youth.

Thankfully, this Bowie tour does all that and more.