The New Zealand Herald - 15th Feb 2004

David Bowie at Westpac Stadium

By Matt Martel

On Saturday night in Wellington, David Bowie was singing in the rain. But he didn't seem to mind.

By halfway through, he was so wet he briefly left the stage and returned in a hooded rainjacket.

Every few minutes torrents of water cascaded from the rigging roof on to the front of the stage, like nature making a mockery of a Guns'n'Roses stage show.

The cameras beaming live footage on to giant video screens had water on their lenses. God, it was wet.

And then there was the wind.

"Wellington, you crazy mothers. Thanks a million for coming out in this shitty weather," Bowie was gracious enough to say.

At one stage as he pounded the air with his fist, the water shaken off was visible from 100m away, caught sparkling in the light. Looking like a boy he decided this was fun and did it again and again.

"Are you all right out there? Because if you are, we are," he said. The crowd roared. Sodden but happy. Or just wanting to get the most they could for their $175 tickets.

Anyway, he dedicated Heroes to the 22,000 of us who stayed the distance.

In a 28-song set that spanned more than 30 years, Bowie mixed old and new, cherry-picking through his back catalogue and adding a liberal amount of material from the current album, Reality.

First up was a renovated Rebel Rebel, a version more closely related to the quieter rendering on the Reality CD bonus disc than the rocking original. He followed that up with new tracks New Killer Star and Reality, from the album he is flogging worldwide, along with $50 tour T-shirts.

But it was the old stuff the crowd really wanted. They went wild for the likes of All the Young Dudes, China Girl, Starman, The Man Who Sold the World, and the three geriatrics of the encore: Five Years, Suffragette City and Ziggy Stardust.

All the while getting wet. So wet that after Hallo Spaceboy he turned towelling himself dry into performance art, entertaining the crowd with "towel guitar".

Yet this wasn't Bowie at his absolute best. His performance at the Glastonbury Festival in 2000 has got to take that position. Back then, he electrified a crowd of maybe 200,000, playing a stunning, emotionally charged set that really blew my hair back.

Some favourites were left in the cupboard: nothing from the popular Labyrinth soundtrack (fans love it; apparently he doesn't), no Diamond Dogs, Jean Genie, Golden Years or Absolute Beginners; and only the first line of Space Oddity - enough to make the crowd go wild, and then time to move on.

Strangely, it was the rain that seemed to make Bowie come alive.

His first few songs seemed a little like polished set pieces, rather than rock'n'roll. But as he got wetter, and wetter, and wetter, he started to smile more and more, enjoying himself and joking with the crowd.

The best thing about Bowie playing Wellington was the whole city got excited. Every store was playing Bowie all day; the bars and restaurants were packed and the Air New Zealand trolleydolley sang Space Oddity as our plane landed on Friday. He wasn't bad, either.

But, of course, the weather was fine in Auckland on Saturday night.