Redlands Daily - 27 April 2004

David Bowie still an electrifying presence

By Marie Vasari

For another performer, it would have meant little.

One step back into shadow, an unguarded moment out of the spotlight just long enough to lean back, sip from a plastic cup, flip a microphone cord into place.

But when David Bowie did it between two wildly disparate numbers during his Thursday night show at the Greek Theatre, it echoed metaphorically of just what makes this performer so distinctly unique - the ability to conjure a mood or a role so precisely in one song, then to transport his audience, in the span of a single note of the next, to a wholly different world. That tiny moment, as his backing band was building up its powerful, drum-frenzied foundation to "Bye, Bye Love," illuminated just how well Bowie has mastered the art of flipping on Bowie the charismatic performer and Bowie the reality. Because when he stepped back up to the edge of the stage, into that spotlight, that other man vanished.

From the first seconds of his two-hour show, the racing hands of time were evident - while the show was in large part the same one Bowie did at the Shrine earlier this year, an animated video that opens the set before the band appears on stage was stopped partway through (whether by intent or not wasn't quite clear), and Bowie walked onto a lit, empty stage, remarking that there wasn't really time for the whole animated sequence.

Bowie talked briefly between songs but said he wanted to get in as much music as possible, so he'd "let the music do the talking." That conversation covered the breadth and depth of a man, from the pits of despair and alienation ("Man Who Sold the World") to joyous celebrations of rock 'n' roll ("All the Young Dudes," "Ziggy Stardust"), to the deeply romantic (the Pixies' "Cactus") and uplifting ("Under Pressure," "Heroes").

And Bowie's dry, sly humor was evident throughout - on "China Girl," the singer cut off his band eight seconds or so into the song, offering droll apologies that he'd accidentally started the song in Mandarin. Then he proceeded, in English, to play his voice into lush swells and deep vibratos.

That voice, of course, is always at the center of it all - frozen steel on "Fame," shattering each word over a beat from a glass heart, deep beyond desolate on the lush, mournful "Sunday." And delving into every other imaginable world Bowie alone has explored.