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Bowie lives up to 'living legend'
status on new live album

David Bowie - A Reality Tour
(ISO Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Feb. 19, 2010
David Bowie

Review by Tony Bonyata

It's been a lengthy seven-year drought of new music from David Bowie - one of rock & roll's great innovators/pickpockets (take your choice, but I'll opt for the former). He hasn't produced a new album since 2003's Reality, and it's his longest stint of musical inactivity since the release of his first single "Liza Jane" back in 1964. In addition, since undergoing heart surgery for a blocked artery in the summer of 2004, Bowie has yet to hit the stage for a full-fledged tour.

Since it doesn't appear that he's about to release anything new in the foreseeable future (seems domestic bliss with supermodel wife Iman and their daughter Alexandria suits him just fine these days), Bowie and ISO Records have decided to revisit his two Dublin shows from 2003 (originally released a year later as a well-received concert DVD) in the form of a double CD set. This audio document entitled A Reality Tour is not only a stunning overview of his vast musical canon, but also proves to be Bowie's most potent live album to date - trumping even his Live Santa Monica '72 document (which, surprisingly, wasn't officially released until 2008).

What stands out first and foremost on this recording is the selected track list - which culls material from his 1971 The Man Who Sold The World album through Reality, and carefully balances huge hits, deliciously obscure deep-cuts and even a couple of choice cover songs for good measure. Then there's the band (arguably the best of Bowie's entire career), featuring guitarists Gerry Leonard & Earl Slick (the latter who has worked with Bowie on-and-off since his 1974 Young Americans album), bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, drummer Sterling Campbell and keyboardists Catherine Russell & Mike Garson, who started recording and touring with Bowie in the early '70s [If you want to hear some brilliant avant-garde jazz piano then track down Bowie's 1973 Aladdin Sane for Garson's mind-blowing assault on the ivories]. These talented musicians inject new energy and muscle into well-known favorites such as "Rebel Rebel," "Fame," "Ashes To Ashes," "Heroes," "Ziggy Stardust" and "Under Pressure" (with Dorsey pulling off the late Freddie Mercury's vocal duet with Bowie to a tee), as well as less familiar tracks such as the beautiful "Fantastic Voyage," and covers of the Pixies' "Cactus" and Iggy Pop's "Sister Midnight" (which, in all fairness, Bowie co-wrote with Pop for his 1977 solo album The Idiot). They also unveil a good number of tracks from Bowie's later work in the '90s and '00s, which, whether down-tempo ("The Loneliest Guy," "Slip Away, "Bring Me The Disco King") or more rocking ("New Killer Star," "Reality," "Hallo Spaceboy"), fit into the mix of older material perfectly.

Finally, of course, there's The Dame himself. Bowie effortlessly hits the vocal highs of his campy early '70s Ziggy Stardust period while also delivering his signature baritone croon on a number of tracks that would send shivers down a young Sinatra's spine. And it's all performed in a casual, good-natured way that proves Bowie's not only at the top of his game but is also having the time of his life.

This set also includes three additional audio tracks that weren't available on the original DVD from these two Dublin shows ("Breaking Glass," "China Girl" and, one of my personal favorite Bowie songs from the last two decades, "Fall Dog Bombs The Moon"), making this even more of a value. Whether you're a new Bowie-curious fan or rabid acolyte of this living legend, this is one live document you won't want to pass up.

Related articles:

David Bowie - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - May. 2004
David Bowie / Macy Gray - Concert review - Rosemont, IL - Jan. 2004
Area2 with David Bowie, Moby and others - Concert review - Chicago, IL - Aug. 2002
David Bowie - Concert review - Chicago, IL - Oct. 1997
Earl Slick - "One on One" - Earl Slick's 30-year affair with The Thin White Duke - Jan. 2004
David Bowie - "One on One" - Rock's Heathen Speaks - June, 2002
The Top Ten Most Influential Rock Artists of All-Time
Livewire's Top 15 Concerts of 2004
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Various Artists - .2 Contamination: A Tribute To David Bowie - Album review
David Bowie - Reality - Album review
David Bowie - Bowie at the Beeb (The Best of the BBC Radio Sessions 68 - 72) - Album review
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