by Steve Jelbert / The Independent
3rd December 1999
First Night David Bowie Astoria London
DAVID BOWIE couldn’t receive any more adoring coverage if he passed away in a tragic pile up on the information superhighway. But with a new album, Hours, touted as a return to old glories, it seems the old chameleon has at last settled into a respectable dotage, rather than trying to keep up with the young folks.
Not that he needs to worry. His Internet obsession is well documented, yet more revolutionary has been his success in floating himself as a corporate entity. Yes, you too can own a piece of David Bowie. This may yet prove to be the second most influential action of his long and successful career, after his popularisation of that short at the sides, long on top hair style beloved by guests on The Jerry Springer Show.
Tonight’s show, in this relatively small venue, sees this fifty-something apparently comfortable with himself and his back catalogue. He might be dressed like a chat show presenter in a fetching pink V-neck jumper and a pair of tight black flares, but the voice and the charm are intact. An opening “Life On Mars” to piano accompaniment provided by Seventies collaborator Mike Garson, is greeted with excited yelps. The band appear and the set flips between eras, mercifully leaving out most of the Eighties and the Tin Machine period. He even performs his first ever single as David Bowie – 1966’s “Can’t Help Thinking About Me”. It’s not great but it’s fun to hear where he sprang from.
His backing musicians are a clean-cut bunch yet they prove capable of handling classics such as “China Girl” and the mechanical funk of “Stay”, possibly one of the most coked-up tracks ever recorded. And although Hours may not be the new Hunky Dory “Seven” is lovely enough to deserve the comparison. The killer combination of “Changes” and glam rock’s greatest moment “Rebel Rebel” conclude the set, the latter proving it costs a lot of cash to make a snare drum sound that cheap.
Bowie might be past his best work, but this enjoyable rifling through his less frequently presented back pages was surprisingly good fun.