Business Times Singapore - 28th Feb 2004

Plug into a new Reality with Bowie

By Kannan Chandran

LIKE a minstrel in search of an identity, the restless David Bowie's various incarnations have certainly kept his audience guessing. And that's perhaps been his saving grace in an industry with increasingly evanescent performers; keeping things fresh, if not always palatable.

Techno-art: expect a melding of reality TV, imagery drawn from the Internet and rock from Bowie's concert.

The once elegant Thin White Duke transformed into the glittering Ziggy Stardust, wore dresses on stage and heaped as much make-up on himself as the public heaped praises upon his art.

There were changes wrought at amazing speed, punctuated with pronouncements that he'd quit rock 'n' roll altogether. Of course, he always bounced back - as a singer with an existing healthy catalogue of albums, an actor willing to experiment, or an emerging artist.

As much as he's linked to his Space Oddity ways, Bowie is also very much grounded and plugged into today's environment - as manifested in the way A Reality Tour was conceived and is now rolling out around the globe. His first tour in a decade, the show is an erudite example of technology and art coming together. Reality's production manager, Steve Martin, was at the initial discussion with Bowie, when the artist sketched out what he wanted to see onstage.

'He had a clear idea of what he wanted,' says Martin, at the Melbourne leg of the tour. He wanted to use video, but in a different way from boy bands who play with the big video images.

Reality television, spy cams and imagery drawn from the Internet era have come together in Reality. 'He wanted a security surveillance look, a bit abstract,' Martin explains.

As a pioneering artist, Bowie has an obvious appreciation of the way technology has influenced the way the world works.

Lipstick spy cams in several locations will be projected onto LED screens, giving the audience an oft-unseen perspective of what goes on onstage as much as off. Interspersed are bits from Bowie's influences during his earlier periods in Berlin and other locales, as well as pre-filmed material and computer-generated images.

'It's a bit of everything. It's like a live closed-circuit TV footage of the band, but from strange angles. It looks grainy, but David wanted it to look very arty. It's almost as if we're spying on the band.'

The end result has even impressed Martin, who has worked on Kylie Minogue's and Peter Gabriel's most recent tours.

Costing around 250,000 (S$792,500) a week to run the technical end of things, it's a show that has reacquainted the singer and his songs with audiences that had to endure concept pieces such as the Tin Machine Project, and albums like Outside and Earthling.

'His singing is incredible,' Martin says with open admiration. 'If he sang a song in a certain way in the 1970s, he's singing it that way now. If he's singing Ziggy Stardust, he literally makes the voice return. He remembers every single phrasing.'

Bowie's five-piece band is helmed by guitarist Earl Slick who first played with Bowie on his Diamond Dogs tour in 1974, and is amazing on the title track of Station To Station.

The Bowie journey is still ongoing. But for the singer with the various personas, it's still about his craft.

A Reality Tour takes place on March 4, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Tickets available from or call 6348 5555.