The Dispatch - 21 May 2004

Bowie rocks Q-C crowd with career-spanning set

By Sean Leary

MOLINE - Iconoclasm is central to the character of any rock star, but few have maintained its integrity, or intrinsic creative curiosity, quite like David Bowie.

The Thin White Duke brought his unique conjuring of artistic and sonic rebellion to The Mark of the Quad Cities Saturday night, intriguing and entertaining roughly 6,000 - including Bowie himself.

Gregarious and chatty throughout the evening, the singer's playfulness and humor was welcome and inclusive, giving the impression that he was just as excited as his fans about the night's possibilities.

Bowie grabbed the crowd from the get-go. Following a cool, avant-garde video segment flashed on the panoramic screen behind the stage, the opening guitar lick of "Rebel Rebel" jolted the audience to its feet.

As the signature hook rang through the speakers, Bowie stood front and center with an ear-to-ear grin, soaking in the adulation, before leading the throng in a rowdy sing-along.

That enthusiasm - on the part of both fans and entertainer - rarely flagged throughout the two-hour plus set as Bowie rolled out an eclectic mix of legendary hits, recent releases and obscure chestnuts from his nearly four-decade career.

Built on an insistent, spacey guitar strum, "New Killer Star," off the singer's latest CD, "Reality," featured wry social jabs poking through jerky percussive shoves.

"If you know this song, I'm not going to be offended if you want to sing along with it," Bowie offered as the opening axe whine of "All The Young Dudes" wafted through the speakers. The lazy beat of the decadent anthem hypnotized the crowd and the arena became an orgy of swaying limbs and rising chants of the glam mantra chorus.

The glossy new wave cut of "China Girl" sliced through the dreamy atmosphere. Its exotic beat and sultry guitar provided a hedonistic backdrop for Bowie's whispered sandpaper vocals.

The melancholy of "The Loneliest Guy" dipped the environment in an inky black, and a slithering, evil guitar heralded the entrance of "The Man Who Sold The World," which exited on a hollow wail.

Bowie was palpably gleeful diving into a cover of the Modern Lovers' underground classic "Pablo Picasso." Eschewing the slacker crawl of the original, the singer's take was bubbly and poppy, built on a snide groove rather than a grumbling attitude.

Bassist Gail Ann Dorsey duetted with Bowie on a transcendent "Under Pressure," which brought the crowd to its feet with its weighty stomp and heartfelt lyrics. And alien blips of synths popped about the intro of "Ashes to Ashes," Bowie's skittish paean to, in his own words, "denial, abandonment, loneliness and heroin."

Bowie's show - although lacking any superficial or stylistic similarity - was reminiscent in spirit to Neil Young's concert at The Mark. Both were innovative and fresh takes from veteran artists who nodded to the past with joy, but never remained entranced by former glories. Instead, they embraced new territories with the same verve displayed as their stars were rising.

Although deadline considerations precluded me from seeing the show in its entirety, what I took in was evidence enough that Bowie's still got the creative spark and ebullient daring that's defined his career.