David Bowie / Atlanta, GA / 05-08-2004

What’s there to say about David Bowie that hasn’t been said hundreds of times before? David Bowie’s A Reality Tour stop in Atlanta’s Chastain Park was nothing like his last two visits to the peach state. Gone was the edgy/artsy character of the Outside and Earthling tours. In its place was a rather friendly, almost safe persona. Which was better? Neither really.

Under the serious moonlight of the open amphitheatre, Bowie commanded the stage and led the audience through a nice retrospective of his illustrious career. Going back on his 14 year old promise to never perform his hits again was evident from the very beginning. He opened with a newer arrangement of 1974’s “Rebel Rebel” which sounded like a cross between the original version and the Reality remake from last year. He then ventured through a selection of tracks from his more recent offerings including “New Killer Star,” “Battle for Britain,” “Cactus,” and “Pablo Picasso.”

As if sensing the audience’s reluctance to accept the newer songs, Bowie joked “I guess it’s time to play something you know.” He treated them to a rare performance of “All the Young Dudes” followed by his 80’s mega-hits “China Girl” and “Let’s Dance.”

This give and take of more obscure tracks and hits was perfectly balanced out. It allowed Bowie to indulge himself and the hardcore fans with such treats as “Fall Dog Bombs the Moon,” “The Supermen,” “Heathen,” and the surprising “Always Crashing in the Same Car.” In fact it was in the obscure numbers that Bowie seemed to be most comfortable. It’s almost as if he wished he hadn’t rebuked his “no hits” policy.

A few of the tracks were much more impressive live that on CD. “Looking for Water,” “Hallo Spaceboy” and “I’m Afraid of Americans” all benefited from the live treatment. A couple of tracks should have been left off of the list however. “The Loneliest Guy,” and “Days” were downright boring and the arrangements of “Quicksand” and “Heroes” were less than spectacular, but still enjoyable. He should have cut “The Loneliest Guy” and “Days” and replaced it with “Bring Me The Disco King.”

Before playing “Under Pressure,” Bowie stopped the show to recognize the crew and stagehands for all of the work they do. Most of the audience probably had no idea that his previous show was cancelled because of a local stagehand’s death. Bowie tastefully mentioned it without really mentioning it.

Fighting a strict Atlanta curfew, Bowie and crew (including Mike Garson, Earl Slick and Gail Ann Dorsey) came out for a couple of encores following a very short break. The band rocked through an awesome “Suffragette City” and “Ziggy Stardust.” “Suffragette City” in particular seemed to rock in a way that the original couldn’t. With exactly one minute to spare before the 11:00 curfew, Bowie and company did their final bows and the show was over.

While the Bowie of ’04 may not be as edgy as the Bowie of ’94, he is still just as exciting and entertaining to see. At 57, Bowie can still outperform most acts half his age.