Winnipeg Sun - 8th April 2004

Classic reality show

David Bowie mixes biggest hits with latest material at Arena

By Rob Williams

DAVID BOWIE: Winnipeg Arena, Winnipeg
Wednesday, April 7, 2004

- David Bowie is keeping it real.

After monstrous stadium extravaganzas in the 1980s, Bowie brought a stripped-down stage set, but a revved-up setlist, to the Winnipeg Arena last night as part of his A Reality Tour.

Not that the Thin White Duke needs to rely on any visual tricks - he has more than 30 years worth of material to choose from.

Bowie and his six-piece band arrived on a bare stage with two side ramps at 9 p.m. after a subdued intro featuring shots of his band, cityscapes and outer space on a giant video screen before launching into the familiar guitar riff of Rebel Rebel.

He was clearly in a good mood, smiling, telling stories and joking with the audience of 8,000 throughout the night.

"Good evening Toronto," he deadpanned after the first song to a chorus of boos. "Sorry Winnipeg, you crazy motherf***ers. It's great to be back. It's been a long time."

What followed was a string of classics dating as far back as 1969 and songs from his last two albums, Heathen and Reality, although he largely ignored his spotty '90s material.

While songs like New Killer Star and Never Get Old might not be as well-known as Fame, Modern Love or The Man Who Sold The World, they mixed seamlessly into the set and proved Bowie can still write a good tune and stay somewhat relevant in today's musical landscape. The new material was warmly received by the crowd, which spanned from teenagers to people who were teenagers when Bowie was making musical history with every album.

For a 57-year-old, Bowie still looked and sounded as good as he ever has and appeared comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt. He wasn't afraid to poke a little fun at his image either, pretending to make out with himself during China Girl, which he introduced by telling the crowd they were about to hear a new song being played for the first time.

He didn't just stick to hits he made famous. Early on he delivered a rousing cover of the Pixies' Cactus and All the Young Dudes, a song he wrote for Mott the Hoople.

By press time, his set had focused mainly on his upbeat rock side and was 16 songs into a planned two-hour show. His past concerts on the tour featured a four-song set from Ziggy Stardust and judging by the night's setlist, it looked as if the Winnipeg audience would get their Spiders From Mars fix too.

Dallas, Tex. group The Polyphonic Spree opened the show with a 45-minute set of uplifting orchestral pop with songs about the sun, light, trees and love.

With 25 members in white robes - including a bouncy nine-member choir, horn section, two percussionists, a theremin player, harpist, flautist, bassist and guitarist - the group looked like some church revival group on acid during a gospel rave up.

"I don't think we could have asked for a more beautiful evening do you?" asked leader Tim DeLaughter, the former Tripping Daisy frontman, who did his best to get the audience to feel his happy-happy-joy-joy vibe with his infectious energy.

Most of the crowd didn't know what to think of the spectacle initially, but the group won over a few converts who were on their feet waving their arms by the end.

Sun Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5