Molson Amphitheatre – Toronto, Ontario

by Darrin Keene / Concert Review

5th August 2002

Moby came, he played and he conquered – with a little help from his mate David Bowie.

Version 2.0 of Moby’s Area Festival paid a visit to Toronto and thankfully Area2 was not AreaToo. Last year’s inaugural show had a tough outing at Toronto’s Docks club, where a swell of ticket buyers found themselves unable to enter the festival’s cramped dance area to see the likes of Paul Oakenfold and The Orb.

This year, organizers switched to a more size-friendly venue – the Molson Amphitheatre – with a large dance tent situated in an adjacent parking lot. Frequent visits to the tent found no line-ups. In fact, there always seemed to be room to spare.

That was the most surprising discovery of the day. Although Moby and company had selected a slew of high-priced DJ talent – John Digweed, Carl Cox and DJ Tiesto – this year the real action seemed to be focussed on the main stage. David Bowie’s presence was an obvious factor in this shift of tastes.

One could see a wide array of age groups and music fans amidst the Amphitheatre crowd. The old school was clearly converging with the new on this day and it wasn’t always harmonic convergence. Around 4 p.m., this writer helped break up a fight between a burly fortysomething and a turtling young indie rocker. It was thankfully early in the day and cooler heads prevailed before Amphitheatre security could get involved.

After this inauspicious interlude, the music took centre stage. DJ Tiesto’s by-the-numbers builds and breakdowns had drawn a substantial number of dancers. The underground dance community may be heralding the death of trance, but the mainstream kids appeared happy to keep lapping up those melodious grooves…

Busta Rhymes was slated to perform, but appeared to be a victim of yet another border conflict. His comical hip-hop performance would’ve been well-received, but his absence wasn’t lamented by the majority who were obviously here for Bowie.

The moment they were waiting for came during a perfect summer sunset. David Bowie and band mixed songs from his new Heathen album with a few gems from yesteryear. The crowd was more than happy to oblige Bowie as he went through the motions with his new material, given he was mixing in old classics like “Fame,” “China Girl” and “Fashion.”

Three interesting choices punctuated his set, including a tasteful cover of Neil Young’s “I’ve Been Waiting For You.” “Stay,” from his superb 1976 album Station To Station, generated a bit of puzzlement from most in the crowd, save for the Bowie fanatics. “I’m Afraid Of Americans,” from his late-’90s electronic dance faze, was a much bigger success. Its bombastic chorus, which could be construed as anti-American, had the throng up with hands in the air. It left this writer wondering if Bowie had pulled one out of the bag especially for his Canadian fans.

After a lengthy encore, including a spirited version of “Let’s Dance,” Bowie finished with what he called an “anti-climactic” song. The crowd seemed to disagree, as “Ziggy Stardust” ended the performance on a high note.

 

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