The Arizona Republic - 5th Feb 2004

Bowie turns back time in Phoenix show

By Larry Rodgers

British rock icon David Bowie had a thing or two to prove to all the young (and not-so-young) Americans who flocked to his sold-out show at Phoenix's Dodge Theatre on Thursday night: Can a rock-and-roller still perform with passion at age 57, after three decades of wild success? Can a man heading for 60 look good enough for a 20-something concertgoer to lean over to her companion and scream, "He is hot!"

And can a star with scores of hits under his belt, a supermodel wife and more money than he could possibly spend still find the motivation to write music that connects with the regular people who have supported him for years?

A smiling, gracious Bowie and his bulletproof band spent two hours answering any doubters with a set that celebrated his classic catalog but also showcased new material that kept the audience engaged.

Bowie was clearly having fun watching the faces of fans as he sang such rock radio classics as the show-opening "Rebel Rebel" and the concert-closing "Ziggy Stardust," but he made it clear early on that the songs from albums released in the past two years would serve as more than window dressing.

Four of the concert's first seven songs came from "Heathen" (2002) and "Reality," released late last year.

The crisp, rocking "New Killer Star," from the latter CD, has become a quick concert classic and a favorite of Bowie's. Referencing the terrorist attack on his adopted home town of New York, Bowie had the crowd dancing as he sang the upbeat counterpoint, "I got a better way. Ready! Set! Go!"

The wildly rocking title track from "Reality," fueled by the slicing guitar of longtime Bowie collaborator Earl Slick, also played well live, as did an emotional reading of the Pixies' "Cactus," from the "Heathen" album.

With his blondish hair, lithe body and a face that appears 20 years younger than it is, Bowie looked like a guy who can keep pumping this stuff out for decades to come.

Opening the show looking like a cross between a biker, rock star and teenage skater, Bowie was dressed for comfort. A black jacket, red scarf, dark T-shirt, tight, black jeans and Converse All-Star sneakers all looked perfect when hung on Bowie's well-toned frame. As the night went on the jacket and a second tuxedo-cut jacket worn beneath it were peeled off.

While Bowie's intellectual brand of rock might leave some listeners a bit intimidated, he exuded warmth and good humor throughout the concert, which found the crowd on its feet 90 percent of the time.

Introducing a powerful version of "The Man Who Sold The World," Bowie recalled hearing the song for the first time on American radio, while riding in a car in 1971: "It was kind of a Howard Dean moment for me," he said, adding "Eeee-yaaaa!"

Later as he moved through the yearning "Be My Wife" into the new, reflective "Days," Bowie lamented with a wink, "This is the misery spot." Then, as he segued into a rich version of 1980's "Ashes To Ashes," featuring impressive piano work by Mike Garson, he joked "This one is merely sad."

He high-fived the uplifted hands that surrounded him when he stepped onto a small portion of the stage protruding into the crowd, the scene reminiscent of the '70s hero worship of the Ziggy Stardust character that he played onstage and in the studio.

While he avoided the groundbreaking "Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars" album in the main portion of the concert, Bowie's encore consisted soley of songs from that record, including a very casual take on "Suffragette City" (the one song in which Bowie muffed some words) and a high-volume version of the title track.

"I suppose it all begins and ends with this one," Bowie said, before Slick hit some of the most memorable chords in the history of rock to start "Ziggy Stardust."

Other high points included a finger-snapping version of "Under Pressure," written with Queen's Freddie Mercury, and a lusty rave-up of "All the Young Dudes," recorded decades ago by Mott the Hoople.

Opening act Macy Gray put the audience in a good mood by showing that she is the queen of nasty, soulful funk on today's pop-music landscape.

Sporting a massive Afro and backed by an old-school-influenced band, Gray wrapped her raspy voice around new songs such as the upbeat "When I See You" and the finger-waving "She Ain't Right For You."

At one point, she playfully called for security to remove "the fuddy-duddies" from the house, good-naturedly commenting, "This isn't the library, you know."