The Washington Post - May 18, 2004

David Bowie: Patriot Center

By Dave McKenna

It's not always easy to separate the visionaries from the pranksters in rock-and-roll (think Yoko Ono). But with a set that covered more than three decades of classic recordings in two-plus hours, David Bowie reminded a crowded house at the Patriot Center on Sunday how far ahead of the curve he so often was.

Bowie, in a shabby-chic ensemble of black jeans, cheap-looking sneakers, T-shirt and yellow scarf, mixed guitar-heavy versions of his smash hits with ecstatic renditions of his best non-smash material. At the beginning of the show, he rendered tunes about sexual confusion (1974's "Rebel Rebel" and 1972's "All the Young Dudes") that were written when pop androgyny was new enough to qualify as shocking. Madonna was practicing high school cheers when Bowie reinvented himself - and not for the first or last time - as the Thin White Duke for 1976's "Station to Station," a tune gloriously reprised for the Fairfax crowd. Folks old enough to know better dusted off funkless dance moves and hit the aisles during "Fame," a song that predated disco.

Bowie let longtime guitarist Earl Slick power the house-shaking take on 1973's "Panic in Detroit," which Bowie introduced as "the first song I ever wrote about terrorism." His equally heavy interpretation of 1997's "I'm Afraid of Americans," an industrial rock tune he wrote with Brian Eno and recorded with Trent Reznor, added a little too much perspective to the proceedings. There was a reverent reaction to 1981's "Under Pressure," among the finer pieces of pop bombast ever crafted, as Gail Ann Dorsey filled in for Freddie Mercury on the high notes.

After giving his spacey 1970 tune "The Man Who Sold the World" a reading that had the house swaying, Bowie said in a mock-surprised voice, "You wrote that?" - a reference to the attention Kurt Cobain brought the song with his 1993 cover. Bowie heaped praise on some relative youngsters, covering "Cactus" by the recently reformed Pixies. He got as big a charge as anybody when he led the arena in screaming "Wham bam thank you, ma'am!" during his encore of "Suffragette City." Time was when those lyrics would get you in trouble.