St. Petersburg Times - 6 May 2004

Basic Brilliance

By Gina Vivinetto

TAMPA - David Bowie didn't need Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke or any of the other rock 'n' roll personas he has been over the past three decades to thrill the sold-out crowd Wednesday at Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

Bowie, 57, needed only himself and the brilliant songs from his 35 year career. Bowie vowed more than a decade ago that he was retiring his older gems from the live format. Thankfully, he has gone back on his word. On this Reality tour, so named for his new album, Bowie's mixing songs from the current album with classics, for a gorgeously balanced show.

Kicking off a two-hour set with Rebel, Rebel, the 1974 androgyny anthem celebrating youth and all its hijinks, the singer could have been in a time warp. Is Bowie really nearing 60? Dressed as a dandy ragamuffin in a dark, tattered corduroy overcoat and dark jeans, his blonde locks draping into his eyes, Bowie looked like a man half his age. Stylish as ever, Bowie proved his tastes are still current and he and his impeccable six-member band performed a pummeling rendition of Cactus by the newly reunited Pixies, a band Bowie called "talented, tasteful people."

Next came Fashion, a slice of delicious disco from Bowie's late 1970s dance music era. Bowie used the latter part of the song to strut the stage as if it were a catwalk. Perhaps wife Iman, a model herself, taught the singer those pouts and poses? Bowie encouraged a robust audience sing-along for All the Young Dudes. (Yep, he wrote the tune that made Mott the Hoople famous in 1972.)

China Girl sounded heavenly with plenty of theatrics from an animated Bowie, acting out both the part of the delicate Asian girl and her overbearing Western man who promises to give her "television and eyes of blue" as well as "a man who wants to rule the world."

Fame, which Bowie wrote with his buddy John Lennon in the 1970s, sounded trippy - as it should. The tune details the harrowing drug-filled life of a celebrity, one Bowie has been all too familiar with during his 1970s heyday.

Younger folks in the audience may have been more familiar with Kurt Cobain's cover of The Man Who Sold the World, from Nirvana's MTV Unplugged In New York, but Bowie reclaimed it Wednesday, making his voice wrap around the song's spooky lyric like something serpentine.

The night's highlight - aside from a Ziggy Stardust-drenched finale of numbers - was a thrilling rendition of Under Pressure, the song Bowie wrote with the late Freddie Mercury of Queen. Bowie sang the duet with Gail Ann Dorsey, his amazingly talented bass player. Dorsey's voice soared, bellowed and broke into a powerful falsetto as Bowie sang out front. At the song's close, when Dorsey returned to the tune's classic bassline, the audience roared.