The Daily Free Pos - 8 April 2004

Bowie delivers in Boston

By Chad Berndtson

"You all don't mind if we don't play a slick show tonight, right?" David Bowie said grinning ear to ear to a packed FleetCenter crowd of 11,000 on March 30.

Turns out, he was only half-joking.

But Bowie is Bowie, and despite a two-hour set that boasted only a smattering of incendiary moments amid slight sound problems and a lack of energy at times, the Thin White Duke offered a cross section of his entire catalogue that was enough to satisfy a pan-generational crowd.

It definitely felt like a make-up show in parts (the concert was rescheduled from Dec. 9 because of illness), but Bowie and his longtime backing band made good on their promise to not give Beantown a short shrift.

Despite a gigantic video screen and the wild lighting befitting a glam pop god, the staging and theatrics were decidedly minimalist.

Stepping up center stage dressed in tight black jeans and what looked like a brocaded denim jacket, the 57-year-old tore into the opening lines of "Rebel Rebel" as he was bathed in the spotlight.

Bowie spoke more than he danced, and served as an amiable tour guide through the history of his incredible and multi-layered catalog in 26 songs, reaching as far back as "The Man Who Sold the World" to as recent as the title track from last year's Reality.

A pair of shout-outs to local artists rounded the set out: Bowie offered an able version of singer-songwriter Jonathan Richman's "Pablo Picasso" and excelled on a sexy, hound-dog run through the Pixies' "Cactus."

The Duke's backing sextet, anchored by guitarists Jerry Leonard and Earl Slick and silk-voiced bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, managed to fill in the gaps. The guitarists' hard, near-blues and even Radiohead-esque riffing rescued a languishing, 10-minute long "Sunday" and made "The Loneliest Guy" ethereal instead of droning. Dorsey was at the center of the night's showstopper, covering the late Freddie Mercury's part in an immense, seat-shaking rendition of "Under Pressure."

Despite slower moments in newer songs or an occasional lack of energy on vintage ones, Bowie is a showman's showman.

He knows how to work a crowd and get the reaction he wants, be it hand-clapping spurts, standing ovations or sing-a-longs, which included a melodic rendering of Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes" and a rocking update of Bowie's '80s synth-pop smash "China Girl."

Seeing Bowie basking in the glow of his decades-long musical legacy while proving he is still a relevant hit maker was more than enough incentive to get down and simply enjoy.

After the last uplifting notes of "Heroes" signaled the end of the set, Bowie and company tore through a three-song encore: an immense "Five Years," a rocking, balls-out rendition of the immense "Suffragette City" and the inevitable, if no less delectable, "Ziggy Stardust."

It was the night's finest run of songs, and despite Bowie choosing to forgo many of his hits in favor of new material and relative obscurities, few artists can boast as many great songs, and there's only so much you can do with two hours and that much ground to cover.