The Arizona Republic - May 14, 2004

David Bowie faces the music again... and smiles

By Larry Rodgers

David Bowie takes his music as seriously as anyone who has ever written a pop song, but at 57, he has finally discovered the joy of laughing at himself.

It has been more than 30 years since the British rocker shocked both sides of the Atlantic with his glammed-out, androgynous Ziggy Stardust character.

Since then, Bowie has kept fans guessing with a series of musical identities, but he's showing a sentimental side now as he tours behind his accessible "Reality" album.

Bowie, a jet-setting musician/actor/clotheshorse/painter, whose surgically sleek sound, ultrafashionable videos and guarded personal life made him seem untouchable in years past, sounds humbled by the outpouring of affection from fans of all ages as he performs rock classics and new tunes.

"I'm enjoying touring like never before... and it's very satisfying to see some pretty young kids out there, to see their faces expressing a kind of joy and enthusiasm for what you do," Bowie says.

The London-born singer still has the striking looks that make him appear 20 years younger, and he laughs when it's suggested that his supermodel wife, Iman, has given him trade secrets.

But Bowie, who performs Thursday at the Murat Theatre, finally is acknowledging that time waits for no one, as his friend Mick Jagger has sung.

"Sometimes I sigh and think, 'God, I wish I was 50 again,'" Bowie jokes.

But - like Jagger, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young - he's part of a generation of artists continuing to create fresh music in a genre once solely for the young and rebellious.

"It's a very weird thing, having grown up through this entire history of rock 'n' roll, that our lot really are the first 'oldies' to get there," he says.

Granted, an earlier wave of rockers that includes Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis continue to recycle their '50s hits onstage, but Bowie and his peers still are releasing new material and performing for millions.

Feels like a pioneer

This world tour, Bowie's first since 1995, will take him to 17 countries in seven months.

"We are pioneering. I'm sure there are quite a few (young) bands out there that are looking at us and thinking, 'OK, let's see what we're going to have to do when we get to that age,' " he says.

In the early '90s, Bowie announced that he no longer would perform his old hits. He kept that vow until a small tour behind 2002's "Heathen" album, which, like last fall's "Reality," reunited him with Tony Visconti, who produced some of Bowie's strongest early albums.

Both discs were well-received by critics and fans, revitalizing Bowie's career.

It took the singer a decade to realize that his new songs could stack up to his '70s and '80s hits.

"I don't feel that the new songs suffer in any way when put up against the older stuff that I'm known for, when I used to get radio play. I guess the radio stuff that I'm playing (in concert) always seemed a bit of a weight around my neck because it was so well-known. You think, 'How am I ever going to beat those things?'

"So I pretty much cleared the decks in the early '90s. And as I've gone through this period, it's very evident to me that I can certainly compete with myself."

"Reality's" opening track, "New Killer Star," is a crisp, rocking nod to the Ziggy Stardust days, while the funky "Never Get Old" would rest comfortably next to 1975's No. 1 hit "Fame."

In between, Bowie pauses to reflect on life's ups and downs in "Days" and "The Loneliest Guy."

Reflecting awareness

The guitar-fueled "New Killer Star," with its reference to the terrorist attacks on New York in 2001, quickly has become a favorite concert tune of Bowie's.

"That's the spirit of the album, that there's an awareness of what's been going down recently where I live, at least, and how it's affected New York and probably America generally."

Bowie says "Killer Star," with the line, "Let's face the music and dance," contains "a real strong sense of positivism... You hold your head up and go into battle smiling and whistling and dancing."

David Bowie
- When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
- Where: Murat Centre, 502 N. New Jersey St. Tickets: Sold out.
- Info: (317) 231-0000.