The Union Leader - 2 June 2004

Ageless David Bowie brings decades of brilliance to city

By Tom Fahey

MANCHESTER - David Bowie landed at the Verizon Wireless Arena last night dressed not like one of the Spiders from Mars, but like an American rock 'n' roller.

Bowie, dressed in chinos, sneakers and a sleeveless T-shirt, brought the "Reality Tour" he's taken around the world to Manchester. He played for more than two hours, mixing together old songs, new ones, and cover versions of other artists, including the Pixies and Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers.

Two Bowie classics sandwiched the evening, with "Rebel, Rebel" as an opener and "Ziggy Stardust" to conclude a rousing four-song encore. In between were 22 other Bowie familiars - "a bit of this and that," as he promised at the outset. There were hits from the 1970s - "Under Pressure," "Ashes to Ashes" and "Suffragette City" - and more recent compositions, less-known like "The Loneliest Guy" and "New Killer Star."

All through the night he encouraged the audience to sing along, on choruses like those in "China Girl" and "All the Young Dudes."

The show was the 101st in the worldwide tour that began last fall in Europe. It has since hit Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong and Canada. After a show tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut and dates in New York and New Jersey, Bowie returns for more concerts in Europe.

Still slender after all these years, Bowie looked younger and spryer than most 57-year-old males in the audience, skipping across the stage with guitar in hand during a version of Richman's Pablo Picasso, and solidly belting out tunes like "Diamond Dogs," "I'm Afraid of America," and "We Could Be Heroes."

Bowie's song list changes from night to night. Before the band started the tour, they rehearsed 50 songs so they could switch tunes around easily and keep each show fresh.

The six-member band included Earl Slick and Gerry Leonard on guitars and Diane Johnson on bass and vocals [sic Gail Ann Dorsey]. Johnson did a fine job filling in for the late Freddy Mercury on "Under Pressure," which he co-authored with Bowie.

The opening act last night was The Polyphonic Spree, a 25-member group that dresses in full-length nightshirts and performs what it describes as symphonic pop, with a 12-voice chorus and instruments that range from keyboards and guitar to an orchestra harp and a trombone.

Over the years he has released 26 studio albums, with his most successful period coming in the 1970s. The most recent work, "Reality" came out in September and served as the launch pad for the current "Reality Tour."

Bowie has worked through a number of musical and performance styles since the original issue of the single "Space Oddity" in 1969. Over his career, he has posed as an alien rock star in the "Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars," and settled down in his last two albums, including "Heathen" in 2002.

He has worked with artists that run the performance gamut from Bing Crosby (on a version of the Little Drummer Boy) to John Lennon, with whom he co-wrote "Fame." His work also extends to film and theater, from early rock videos to roles in "The Man Who Fell to Earth" and "The Last Temptation of Christ," and a performance on stage as "The Elephant Man."