Concert Review: AREA 2
Fans certainly got their money's worth August 10th for Moby's Area 2, Denver, CO outing. This eclectic concert festival was held in the City of Lights Pavilion, next to the Pepsi Center, and was produced by Moby, Marci Weber and Barry Taylor and presented by Clear Channel. From 2:00 pm (Mountain), when the gates opened, until 10:40 pm, concertgoers were treated to Ash, Blue Man Group, Busta Rhymes, David Bowie and Moby. These same people were also encouraged to listen to and enjoy mini Raves with DJ Carl Cox, DJ Tiesto, Diesel boy, DJ Dan, Tim Skinner, and John Digweed in the "Playstation 2 Dance Tent" or 'Techno Tents' that were sandwiched between the umpteen concession stands (which sold souvenirs, mixed drinks, beer, and just about every other overpriced commodity a concert can pawn off...).
On the pavilion's main stage, the following line up gave the crowd of over 5000 more than enough to keep occupied.
This Irish pop, punk group delivered a full powered performance. Slated as the first artist, they suffered a considerably smaller but enthusiastic crowd. The music was straightforward, 2 guitar, bass and drums outfit that gave audiences a chance to hear the melodic side of European punk. "Burn Baby Burn" was the standout track from a performance, which spanned the band's career, which began in 1995 (www.ash-official.com).
Blue Man Group
Of the early performers, these performance artists (literally covered in blue paint) eclipsed all save for David Bowie. These Grammy nominees created percussive sounds by banging on plastic organ pipes, shaker gongs, a grand piano turned on its side and other out-of-place instruments that was incredible to watch. The effect of all of this was to create (backed by a band which consisted of keyboards, bass, guitar and 3 drummers) hilarious, fascinating, tribal, techno rock. This offering was one that one must see to believe (www.blueman.com).
Hip Hop was represented by Busta Rhymes who upped the audience participation by yelling at them to do so in his rap hits like "Pass The Courvasier." Teamed with another rapper, a DJ and a 3-piece band, Rhymes begged and egged on a near capacity audience to join in on his 45-minute performance. His latest "Genesis" as well as older hits warmed the crowd up for the intense headliners. Out of place and clearly enjoying it, Busta spread his message on weed, racism, cognac with energy, fun and probably gained a few converts in the techno crowd. (www.jrecords.com)
One of the main draws was co-headliner and rock/pop legend David Bowie. Like picking fine wines for a dinner party, Bowie gave an informative rundown of several hits and outstanding tracks from "Heathen" and from his 5-decade long career. Other than a botched "Life On Mars?" opener, Bowie delivered the goods by pulverizing the Pixies' "Cactus," "I'm Afraid Of Americans" (which worked younger fans into an absolute, club frenzy) and his anthem "Ziggy Stardust" (which energized long time fans as his show drew to a close).
Also Bowie's earnest and haunting take on "Heroes" and the new "Heathen (The Rays)" and "5:15 The Angels Have Gone" showed he was still a master at taking audience from frenetic to passive in a matter of minutes. The recently reworked "Let's Dance" and "Ashes To Ashes" (both outstanding 80s singles) also drew enthusiastic response.
In spite of the sometimes-disparaging lyrics of his songs, Bowie appeared in very good spirits, playing to his Denver crowd, and showing no signs of tour boredom. Bowie information can be found on davidbowie.com, and bowiewonderworld.com (that includes a comprehensive Bowie links section).
Like a comic book, which struggles to be adapted into a motion picture, the co-headliner and festival founder Moby gave a performance, which was confusing and hard to follow for those new to his stage show. An amazing light show coupled with this electronica mix tape artist's reliance on prerecorded music came together but not without flaws. Basically, he came across as a hyperactive DJ who plays keyboards. Certainly, this was the first time that I had seen a mix tape artist (much less one of Moby's magnitude) play live. Opening Moby's worldwide hit "Play," for instance, "Stairway To Heaven" was heard - the two tracks not being very compatible threw me but not the faithful.
Luckily, Moby's crowd pleaser "Bodyrock" was a little less cluttered yet sounded more or less identical to the studio version. More importantly, fans showed no sign of disappointment even though he had the daunting task of following David Bowie and also working with a crowd near exhaustion after 5+ hours of music.
To those who were able to take in the festival (and there are dates left), it was a fun variety of musicians who teetered on the edges of Western pop. That was its intent, I believe, and those who arrived could not be disappointed even if they did not like one or more the artists and the music they represent.
Stephen Lindsay Satterfield
13th August 2002.
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