David Bowie Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON - April 1, 2004
Published May 01, 2004Back in 1990, a forward-looking David Bowie vowed to blow out his old songbook one last live time with the hit-laden Sound + Vision tour. A decade-and-a-half later, the erstwhile "thin white duke" seems to have come to terms with the fact that, collectively, his back catalogue remains bigger than he ever was, or is ever likely to be again. Accordingly, the set list for Bowie's ongoing Reality tour relies heavily on the shape-shifting, genre-melding artist's material of yore. While Bowie has trotted out the oldies on occasion since 1990, those efforts to mine the velvet goldmine haven't been nearly as extensive as they are this time out. In fact, were it not for the tour's moniker, even those particularly devoted fans in attendance could have been forgiven for being unaware that Bowie had a new disc in the offering. But whereas Sound + Vision was effectively a "greatest hits" tour, this latest trek presents more of a "best of" package, as curated by someone well versed in the deeper, slightly more obscure recesses of Bowie's musical oeuvre. Sure, there was plenty to satisfy meat and potato fans (like show-opener "Rebel Rebel" and Let's Dance tracks "Modern Love" and "China Girl), but even the fat guy dressed up like the wizard from Labyrinth must have been at least a little surprised and delighted to hear Dave turn in a rare rendition of the Hunky Dory epic "Quicksand," or re-establish his claim to "All the Young Dudes" and the Queen co-written "Under Pressure." A glossed-up version of the Pixies' "Cactus" served as another of the set's higher points of interest, along with at least half of the tracks from Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust. In stark contrast to the pretence of that era, though, this was Bowie at his most casual and relaxed, sharing laughs with the audience and carrying on between songs. That backyard barbecue vibe, compounded with an undeniably uplifting set by show-opening happy cult the Polyphonic Spree, and a ubiquitous curtain of pot smoke, helped to deliver the feel-good concert experience of the year.