Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - May 18th 2004

Bowie still puts on a magical show

By Regis Behe

He's been Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke, an avant-garde artiste and a pop star, at various times throughout his lengthy career. But Monday night at the Benedum Center, Downtown, David Bowie seemed most to resemble Pittsburgh native Andy Warhol.

As Warhol commodified popular art, Bowie does the same with pop music. It's product, pure and simple, but it's also irresistible and magical when the 57-year-old star is in the flesh.

Last night's show was a superbly paced, theatrically influenced event, with Bowie the ultimate showman first appearing as a shadowy figure at the front of the stage singing the first verse of "Rebel, Rebel" before he became lit.

It was a breathtaking entrance: Bowie rakishly dressed in a royal purple jacket that looked like it was borrowed from the "Pirates of Penzance." And, yes, as my neighbor said, he did look fabulous for his - or any other age.

But as Bowie would shed his coat to reveal a vinyl sort of topcoat (and later that to reveal a muscle T-shirt), this was a show of many layers. There were songs familiar ("Fame") and old ("The Man Who Saved the World") and relatively new (the wonderfully ethereal segue of "Everything Has Changed" into "Heathen (Rays)."

But it was the familiar songs that generated a palpable energy in the sold-out theater. "All the Young Dudes" had all the resonance it did three decades ago, even if most of the dudes in the audience weren't so young.

"China Girl," from Bowie's mainstream pop phase in the '80s, was recast with longtime guitarist Earl Slick adding a slicing, near ominous guitar. The cover of the Pixies "Cactus" was also dark and full of danger.

At times, Bowie seemed to overreach. The starkness of "The Loneliest Guy" fell flat, and "Hallo Spaceboy" was a mishmash of techno beats and effects that never quite came together.

But forgive Bowie his indulgences, especially on this tour, where he's plumbing the depths of his entire catalog. Hearing "Hang on to Yourself" in all its glam glory was worth the price of admission alone, as was the wonderful duet with longtime bassist Gail Ann Dorsey on "Under Pressure."

"Freddie Mercury couldn't be here tonight," Bowie explained, referring to the late Queen singer, who originally sang with Bowie on the tune.

'Tis a pity, Mercury's untimely death; but there's still magic in whatever Bowie does.