Pioneer Press - 12th January 2004

Concert Review: Bowie bridges decades with ease

By Rob Hubbard

To say that David Bowie has aged gracefully would be an understatement. Perhaps more so than any of his contemporaries who emerged amid the alienation after Woodstock, Bowie has never slipped into self-parody. He's remained a restless musical spirit who sometimes misses the mark with his audience, but never embarrasses himself by pretending he's 25 again.

On Sunday night, Bowie served a welcome reminder to a cross-generational audience at Minneapolis' Target Center that middle age doesn't have to send the rockers among us into the snug sack of nostalgia.

While Bowie and his band - the best that's accompanied him in years - delved into plenty of older material, there was nothing at all perfunctory about the fresh interpretations the songs received.

For the first time in his three decades of periodic visits to the Twin Cities, Bowie seems to have found peace with his repertoire, snatching songs from a spread of 33 years during a 90-minute set and multisong encore.

Opening with 1974's "Rebel Rebel," Bowie served notice that he wouldn't shy away from the works that first brought him to attention, and he forged a balance between past and present, slipping songs from his latest album, "Reality," in between such '70s and '80s fare as "Fashion" and "Fame."

Speaking of fashion, Bowie's known as something of a dresser, but he kept things simple on Sunday, wearing an all-black ensemble of jeans, T-shirt and Converse All-Stars. The attire fit a performer who seems as comfortable onstage as he ever has, bantering with the crowd between numbers but never avoiding his more despairing songs, like the melancholy ballad "Life on Mars?" and the set-closing "Heroes."

Bowie's past couple of albums seemed to betray a loss of his old vocal power, but Sunday's show was an ear-opening surprise. He showed great range, seemingly tapping the depths of his emotional reserves for some soaring lines. Among the standouts was a rendition of "China Girl" that left him wailing the final verse from his knees.

But Bowie wasn't the only outstanding performer. Guitarists Earl Slick and Gerry Leonard were strong throughout, channeling such former Bowie sidemen as Mick Ronson, Robert Fripp and Stevie Ray Vaughan but lending each solo with originality. Former Soul Asylum drummer Sterling Campbell was also impressive.

It may be damning with faint praise to call Sunday's show the best Bowie has performed in the Twin Cities, for he comes here seldom.

But it's wonderful to find an artist of his generation who hasn't lost his sense of creative adventure, yet can bond with his past convincingly enough to lead a full-arena sing-along on "All the Young Dudes" and not seem the least bit a relic.