Do you remember the concerts?
That day in 2004, David Bowie gave his last concert in Vancouver, as part of his massive A Reality Tour.
Five months later, he collapsed after performing at the Hurricane Festival in Scheeßel, Germany, and was diagnosed with a badly blocked artery. He was forced to cancel the last 15 concerts of the European tour and would never give a full concert again.
So if you see it at GM Place, count yourself lucky because it was a doozy.
Here is my review, which originally appeared in the January 29, 2004 issue of Georgia Straight.
Dude, talk about going through ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Although he has always been one of the most charismatic rock stars of all time, David Bowie hasn’t always been able – or wanted – to connect with a live audience. I remember seeing him at the Pacific Coliseum on Station to Station tour of ’75, when he was all cold and detached, fully into the character of Thin White Duke.
But at GM Place last Saturday, Bowie came across as the affable old hipster next door. Whether he dedicates a song to the woman in the bunny costume in the front row or acknowledges the presence of the orange haired Ziggy Stardust clone hammering him near the soundboard, he has forged a solid bond with the crowd. almost packed with 12,000 people. When you factor in that friendly vibe with Bowie’s nearly flawless voice, brilliant band, and cleverly executed show, you end up with one of the best old school rock concerts the Canucks Rink has ever put on. .
The choice of material didn’t hurt either. He opened with “Rebel Rebel”, the 1974 single riff Diamond dogs, and hits have never stopped arriving, spanning over 30 years between “The Man Who Sold the World” and “New Killer Star”, the first single from his smashing new record, Reality. “Ashes to Ashes” featured the keyboard magic of longtime Bowie sideman Mike Garson, who spiced it up with a few keys of the same maniacal, quirky piano work he recorded on Aladdin Sane three decades ago. . My favorite pick of the night was easily “All the Young Dudes,” the glam-rock anthem Bowie loaned to his pal Ian Hunter in ’72 to help save the career of Hunter’s then struggling combo, Mott the Hoople.
Bowie also offered up a less familiar little gem, like “A New Career in a New Town,” a breezy three-minute instrumental from the eclectic Low. And he chose Aladdin Sane’s “Panic in Detroit”, bouncy and punchy, rather than the best known from that album, “The Jean Genie”.
Considering current world events, some of the titles of the songs played were strange in themselves, especially “Life on Mars?” and the so-so “I’m afraid of the Americans”. After performing them, Manhattan-based Bowie proclaimed, “There are two sides to every story. Here is the other side. Then his group broke into the much stronger “Heroes”.
The 57-year-old rocker did his thing on a cool-looking faux granite stage, his movements broadcast from unusual angles on a row of video screens. There was little to see in terms of costume changes, with the still slim singer spending most of the time in a black T-shirt and runners. Looking even closer, the black-clad rocker was sunglasses guitarist Earl Slick who, along with Garson, has been playing with Bowie on and off since the ’70s (Bowie sings on a track he co-wrote with the veteran sideman for his impressive new solo CD, Zigzag.)
I was hoping to hear Slick’s menacing intro on “Station to Station”, but it never happened, and anyone who expected to hear echoes of Stevie Ray Vaughan in his solo “China Girl” had to settle for of its decidedly non-bluesy approach. But the Les Paul manager couldn’t help but pay tribute to former Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson during the six-song encore that included four clips from the 1972 glam-rock masterpiece. , Ziggy stardust.
The only major mistake Bowie made all night was choosing Santo & Johnny’s exquisite 1959 instrument, “Sleep Walk,” to be played on the PA system while people paraded. Oddly enough, those dreamy steel guitar licks were what stuck in my mind more than anything else.