Ever-subtle David Bowie: the Life of the Area2 party

by Doug Pullen / Flint Journal Review

7th August 2002

CLARKSTON – Area2 may be Moby’s party, but David Bowie is like the favorite uncle who livens things up the minute he arrives.

Bowie was the life of the party Tuesday night at DTE Energy Music Theatre, one of 12 stops on the second annual edition of the touring festival that combines various pop music styles under one roof (and one tent).

At 55, Bowie is the avuncular elder statesman of the alternative and punk crowd. He dabbled in white noise and electronic music when most of its techno progeny was still in diapers. Now he has a new album, the impressive “Heathen,” to promote and acolyte Moby was only too happy to oblige his hero with a spot on the main stage.

Bowie, nattily dressed in a black, three-piece suit, was in great spirits Tuesday, giving one of the most relaxed, playful, sexy performances I’ve seen in the 25 years I’ve attended his concerts. Happily celebrating his past without sacrificing the present, Bowie mugged, joked, danced, flirted and sung his heart out in a 90-minute, 15-song performance that stretched from the rarely performed “Life On Mars” from the early ’70s to the cerebral “5:15 The Angels Have Gone” from the new album.

It was a stitch to watch Bowie – backed by a seven-piece band that included old friends Mike Garson on keyboards, Earl Slick on guitar and Gail Ann Dorsey on bass, guitar and vocals – apologize for wearing sunglasses (to protect his light sensitive left eye, the result of a school injury) and fib about his “slight Ann Arbor accent” and bogus origins as the son of Ann Arbor sunglass manufacturers.

But performing like a man totally at peace with himself, his accomplishments and his still-sharp abilities, Bowie turned serious on an inspiring version of “Heroes” and transformed “Ziggy Stardust” and an encore of “Let’s Dance” into celebratory anthems.

His performance had something some of the other performers lacked: subtlety. Bowie’s generation stressed live performance as a vital part of their artistry. Moby doesn’t really have it. As enjoyable and highly energetic as the nerdy techno DJ-turned-pop star was, his 90-minute set lacked variety and, yes, subtlety.

Moby is not a natural performer. He comes across like the geeky kid across the street living out his rock star fantasy…

As parties go, Area2 is a good one. It’s two parties in one, really. While Area2 is a celebration of dance music in all its lusty, youthful forms, it was the old guy who showed the crowd just what kind of possibilities lie ahead.

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