Philadelphia Inquirer - March 31 2004

An urbane Bowie of many fine voices

By A.D. Amorosi

Long past his pop-chameleon theatrics, David Bowie proved to a sold-out Wachovia Center Monday that he needed little but a tight, sizzling band to make his anthems dramatic.

At 57, Bowie was a gentlemanly presence, rakish in blond bangs and a ragtag set of tails that made him look like pirate captain Jack Sparrow dressed by Vivienne Westwood.

Beyond Bowie's good looks, the voice was his most handsome asset. It leaped effortlessly between a piercing alto (the glam crunch of "Rebel Rebel"), a low monotone (the Pixies' "Cactus"), and a baritone croon.

With effortless grace, he employed that croon to sing of impending apocalypses, in the funereal medley of "Sunday" and "Heathen." He also used it on metronomic love songs ("New Killer Star") and strummed Nietzschean laments ("Quicksand").

It soared while he knelt before his longtime Philadelphia fans during the glitter theme "All the Young Dudes" and hummed through the jungle metal of "I'm Afraid of Americans."

But Bowie could not have given himself to these vocal subtleties if it weren't for his band.

While the taut pulse of bassist Gail Ann Dorsey and the grandiloquent piano of Mike Garson brought nuance to creepy melodies ("The Man Who Sold the World"), guitarists Earl Slick and Gerry Leonard created a palette that was primal and noisy, yet clean. Their razor leads and trashy rhythms provided Bowie with the best guitar sound he has had in his career.

Opening was the Polyphonic Spree, with a sound that Bowie called "Hair meets the Flaming Lips." He was nearly right. In their area debut, the nearly 30 members of the quirky pop chorale twirled their robes while leaping and clapping, seemingly possessed by a higher, weirder spirit existing between the Bible Belt and Broadway.