David Bowie – At the Orpheum – Review

David Bowie

At the Orpheum
by Lex Marburger
photo by Joe Reilly

As I was watching the show, I realized that David Bowie is among the immortals, and he knows it. I know it sounds ridiculously obvious to say, but it doesn’t really sink in until you see him in action. Gone are the melodramatic posturings, the over-the-top inflections, the overdone stage settings. Bowie is settling in to being David, rather than some fantasy construct. Sure, the stage had some gimmicks, most noticeably the film projections and giant eyeballs (if you saw him at the VH1 GQ fashion awards, you know what I mean). But thankfully, there was nothing even close to the rococo atrocity of the Glass Spider tour. Even better, the musicians he’s acquired are better than that damn Frampton yahoo. Mike Garson, fractal keyboardist from Aladdin Sane days; Reeves Gabrels, the last defender of the ’80s harmonic scream; Gail Ann Dorsey, with an unstoppable low end (and a strange plumber’s crack skirt that showed off her other “low end”); and Zachary Alford, a drummer who effortlessly seams spastic sequences and mainline rock beats. But the center of attention, of course, is Bowie. Smiling, joking, laughing, and even mocking his own old Shatner-style stage antics, Bowie kept the pace at an open throttle, mixing old and new songs, and making writers mix metaphors. He’s become comfortable in his status as richest musician in Europe ($700 mil) and ended his tentative moratorium against playing his old material. “Scary Monsters,” “Panic in Detroit,” “Fame,” and an excellent remake of “Man Who Sold The World,” among others, mixed in with the Earthling album to give the foaming crowd what it wanted: The Bowie they knew, reworked for the millennium. There were some surprising elements in the show as well, such as two Velvet Underground tunes (“Waiting For The Man” and “White Light/White Heat”) and, as a real shocker, Dorsey’s outstanding job on Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” during the encores. What can I say? He’s a legend. Even if he stopped performing and creating tomorrow, he’ll be known for decades after his death. But he hasn’t stopped, and I’m glad. Just released is the Nine Inch Nails remix album of “I’m Afraid of Americans.” What a dream for Reznor, huh? The guy grows up listening to Bowie, even copping “Warszawa” for “A Warm Place,” then actually performing with him, then hanging out with and remixing a song for him. Unbelievable. Oh, the album? It sounds like Nails all right, but there’re a few curves thrown in, like getting Ice Cube to spout off a little on one version. If nothing else did, this’ll smack the crossover market upside the head, and implant Bowie into the mind of the masses even more than he already is.