Bowie takes Boston
Major Thom to Ground Control: Legendary rock oddity David Bowie's Reality Tour descended on Boston's Fleet Center last Tuesday to much rejoicing. It gave Beantown an evening of entertainment to be remembered.
Bowie was preceded by opening act the Polyphonic Spree, who set the stage for the evening's grandiose scale. This Texas band features 25 musicians, all clad in white robes with colorful trim. They look like a cult; it's an impressive spectacle, and their music is a symphonic brand of pop suitable to their size. The harp is a rarity on the rock stage. The Spree's "last song" lasted about 20 minutes through various movements.
Frontman Tim DeLaughter did all the lead singing but was easy to lose among his peers. A nine-member female choir supported him. In thanking his warm-up band, Bowie noted how great it was that all its music was so happy.
Of course the crowd had come to see David Bowie, and the man delivered. However, in the cavernous Fleet Center, vision was necessarily enhanced by big video screens. There was a figure with a large blond mop of hair singing and dancing at center stage who was apparently the legendary musician.
Bowie started the night with the quick one-two punch of "Rebel Rebel" and "Hang On To Yourself" to get the crowd rocking. He played guitar on maybe a third of the songs, preferring to concentrate on crooning to the crowd. In fine voice, Bowie seemed to be enjoying himself throughout. He played a number of more obscure or newer tunes, but plenty of hits, which were the crowd pleasers.
After leading the audience through a singalong on "All the Young Dudes" (he asked permission first, wondering if singalongs were too uncool), Bowie told the audience to do the next one without him, and he sat down to have a drink while "China Girl" was played. We failed, so he got up, they started the song again, and delivered one of the night's highlights.
A pleasant surprise was a rendition of Bowie's Queen duet "Under Pressure" with his bassist taking Freddie Mercury's vocal part. An obsessive and critical Bowie fan sitting behind me bitched about the performance, but the other 20,000 or so people in the arena appeared to love it.
The long set included such gems as "The Man Who Sold the World," a cover of the Pixies' "Cactus," "Ashes to Ashes," and the late '90s hit "I'm Afraid of Americans," which had amusing background video. The set ended with the anthemic "Heroes."
While Ziggy Stardust obsessives might have been disappointed by Bowie's choice of outfits, which promoted his tour sponsor Tommy Hilfiger, they must have been thrilled by the band's encore. Bowie played acoustic guitar on the 1972 album's opening song, the pretty "Five Years," then concluded the show with the rocking hits "Suffragette City" and "Ziggy Stardust." It was an excellent ending to a solid show.
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