Rebel Bowie: stripped down and mature

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 March, 2004, 12:00am
 

Call him The Laughing Gnome, Thin White Duke, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, define him as glam rock or kitsch pop. David Bowie was himself pure and simple in Hong Kong last night - consummate rock icon.


Bowie, 57, showed he still has the magic that has made him one of the world's most enduring pop stars as he took to the stage at the Convention and Exhibition Centre as part of his Reality album tour.


Fresh from Japan and Singapore and about to head back to the US for the second North American leg of a seven-month tour that takes in 15 countries, Bowie's voice and charismatic stage presence were every bit as good as they were in his pomp, fairytale years more than 30 years ago.


It was the first time the star had played Hong Kong since 1983, but it was not the first time the Reality album was showcased here. Ever the innovator, the 'man who fell to Earth' beamed himself into the convention centre by satellite in September to preview the album - his second after reuniting with legendary producer Tony Visconti - playing to more than 60 countries in a simultaneous live transmission.


But if it was all hi-tech bells and whistles then, it was a much simpler affair last night, computer gadgets and space-age wizardry giving way to good old microphones and amplifiers in a performance he described as 'stripped down' in Tokyo last week.


And in keeping, it was a casual Bowie who took to the stage to wow fans with classic oldie opener Rebel Rebel. Unfeasibly flared trousers and glamorous alter egos gave way to casual jeans, T-shirt and a 'chatty mate at the bar' persona as he swapped good-humoured banter with the audience.


The star - recently voted one of the 10 greatest pop icons of all time - followed up with the Ziggy-era Hang On To Yourself before fast forwarding to the present with New Killer Star, the opening track on Reality, fast becoming a modern classic.


Unlike the September preview, this was much more than a promo for Reality. There were so many classic moments in this marathon 2?-hour set it's difficult to know where to start. There was China Girl (of course), Fame, Heroes, Ashes to Ashes, Suffragette City and the finale Ziggy Stardust among many others.


Breaking from the set list time after time, Bowie kept adding impromptu favourites, including Breaking Glass, Fashion and the Velvet Underground cover White Light/White Heat.


The star's casual appearance was complemented by a slick professionalism. Bowie was the business all those years ago when he was king of the platform boots, but he's so much better now in maturity. Thank God for 'changes'.


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