by Mark Brown / Rocky Mountain News
20th January 2004
Sometimes fans just have to stare at a musician and wonder to themselves “How do they do it?”
It’s hard even for musicians to explain where their inspiration comes from. At times it seems as much a mystery to them as it is to the rest of us.
After a bit of a lull that still produced some notable work, David Bowie has found himself at another creative peak. He’s 57, he’s more than three decades into his career, yet he’s able to leave fans ecstatic and nearly speechless.
Bowie’s explanation is that his touring band is simply playing very well at the moment.
That’s undeniably true, as Monday night’s blasting show at the Fillmore Auditorium showed. But it hardly explains how his latest work has flourished. New songs such as New Killer Star and the gorgeous Days stand out as highlights in a concert that featured the best of his 35 years of hits.
The best part about having strong new material is that Bowie’s enthusiasm is infectious; even the songs he has played a million times are infused with new energy. Bowie is exploring not only his hits, but the more obscure corners of his catalog.
No one seemed to object. The concert here is one of the few small venues Bowie is doing on his Reality tour, so the 3,600 who packed in had to work hard to get tickets, which sold out in minutes weeks ago.
Bowie made it worth the effort. Two years ago he gave a stunning performance in Denver as part of Moby’s Area 2 tour. This performance was just as stunning – and it was two or three times as long.
Opening with his newly revamped version of Rebel Rebel, Bowie displayed boundless energy and the crowd gave it back in waves of wild applause and stretches of rapt silence.
Some of that was simply spent taking in new material that many may not have heard. The Loneliest Guy and Days are two of Bowie’s quieter yet most powerful pieces from Reality.
After the crowd received both with full attention and thunderous applause, he broke into a big grin. “This could be a very long show,” he promised.
And like most on this tour, it was. Bowie’s band at times played with brutal intensity on classic songs such as The Man Who Sold the World, Hallo Spaceboy, Panic in Detroit and Hang On To Yourself. The hardcores were thrilled to have these songs get a good public airing again, as well as the timeless and timely Life on Mars.
The best part, though, might have been seeing Bowie wring joy – and striking performances – out of his biggest hits, the songs he vowed he was retiring on 1990s Sound + Vision tour.
After the elegant, soaring Life on Mars, he was so tickled that he changed the set list, ordering the band to play back-to-back hits Changes and Fame.
Not that he hadn’t already pulled out plenty of hits; early in the show, China Girl and All The Young Dudes had the crowd singing with abandon.
At press time, Bowie and band were still on stage, blasting through Suffragette City in a long encore of hits. If Denver is like other cities, he’ll wrap up with Ziggy Stardust and the fans will head off dazed into the night.
Macy Gray opened the show with her funk-and-soul revue, mixing her original work with mini-covers of everything from I Want You Back to Come Together. Bowie didn’t need an opening act, but Gray and her incredibly tight band won a lot of fans who likely had never heard her before.