March 1, 2010
Featured Release: David Bowie: A Reality Tour
ISO Records / Columbia Records 88697588272
Its pointing out the
obvious to say that David Bowie has tried and discarded many stage personas, but his
latest is perhaps his strangest and most unexpected. The Bowie onstage for A Reality
Tour is an old school entertainer. "Last night, I gave my voice a belting, so if
I ask you to join in some of the things, to help me out, yeah?" he asks the crowd at
this show, recorded in 2003 in Dublin. They applaud politely, and Bowie asks them again
and gets a more enthusiastic response. He could be playing Vegas, but the music is lean
and tough. The tunes here are from the 2004 DVD of the same title, but Bowie, who produced
the disc, added three tracks to this specially priced two-disc set.
Bowies Reality Tour followed the release of
his 24th studio album, Reality. That album and its predecessor, Heathen (2002),
were well received, and the singer included a healthy number of songs from both discs in
this performance. He also revisited lesser-known songs, such as "The Motel"
(from 1995s Outside) and "Fantastic Voyage" (from
1979s Lodger), performing them with energy and conviction.
"Loving the Alien" is far simpler in this version than in its original on Tonight
(1984), and its much better. A Reality Tour covers a lot of creative
ground and many years, but it never sounds like a mere trot through Bowies greatest
hits. The sets 155 minutes never flag because the discs are well-sequenced and full
of surprises, even for Bowie fans.
The band for the 2003 tour included guitarist Earl Slick
and keyboard player Mike Garson, who both had long histories with Bowie, as well as
bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, who had toured with him since 1995. She joins him on a lively
"Under Pressure" that has more soul and spring than the original. Guitarist
Gerry Leonard leads the band through the many demands of Bowies tunes, from the hard
rockers like "New Killer Star" and "Hang On to Yourself," to the slow
funk of "Fame" (a brilliant rearrangement) and the beautiful, affecting ballad
"The Loneliest Guy." Aside from the Spiders from Mars, this might be
Bowies strongest, most passionate band.
Tony Visconti, Bowies producer and friend, mixed A
Reality Tour, and hes captured the momentum of the live show while giving the
instruments presence and clarity. Bowies voice is well out in front of the band,
with Sterling Campbells kick drum giving the music a solid, punchy foundation.
Dorseys attack on the bass is precisely rendered and the two guitars are well
separated. The keyboards and sound effects on tracks like "New Killer Star" and
"Be My Wife" dont get lost in crowd noise, yet Visconti has left enough
live atmosphere and space to retain the excitement of a live performance.
Bowie hasnt recorded an album of new material since
2003 and hasnt toured since 2004, although he has appeared sporadically onstage with
other musicians, including Arcade Fire. Listening to A Reality Tour is a reminder
of how vivid and exciting a performer he is and how relevant he remains.
. . . Joseph Taylor