NEW YORK Rock chameleon and cyber-businessman
COLOR="#003163">David Bowieperformed for subscribers of his
artist-run Internet service provider, BowieNet, on Monday night at
Roseland Ballroom despite voice trouble that led the singer to cancel a
Saturday performance the second date of a two-night stand for the general public.
Bowie sang his voice away during a marathon performance on Friday,
according to a spokesperson for the singer who preferred not to be
named. But Bowie recovered in time to perform the show scheduled
exclusively for members of his official online community,
Fans who had come from as far away as Japan and Australia to attend the
concert which coincided with the launch of BowieNet's Version 2
were concerned about the singer's ability to perform. "We want
him to have a voice. And if not, we expect karaoke," said Bonnie Powell, editor of Bowie-fan newsletter The Lazy and Web-Impaired.
Dispelling the fears for his voice, Bowie opened the show by scaling the operatic "Wild Is the Wind" with apparent ease. Striding onstage to the strains of "I'll Take Manhattan," the preternaturally youthful artist looked more like a member of Hanson than a middle-aged rock star. He apologized to members of the crowd who'd held tickets for the canceled show. "It's the first time I ever had to do that in my career," Bowie said. "I might have to ask you to help me out on the choruses."
The unconditional love of the fan-club-style crowd made for a uniquely
relaxed and basking Bowie, who at one point told the audience that he
had "to pee" as he went offstage to change costumes. The costume changes themselves evoked wild applause as Bowie went from sailor-boy shirt to a succession of neo-mod jackets to go with his '60s-meets-'90s
shoulder-length shag haircut.
Classics Edge Out Obscurities
This audience, including George Parry, a fan who counted this as his
hundredth Bowie show, would have cheered an evening of his obscurities
(the forgotten kalimba-folk workout "Janine" was among the loud fan
shout-outs), but Bowie stuck mainly to a hit parade for the casual
listener, with even his latest album, Hours ..., edged out
entirely by his 1970s and '80s classics.
Amid a minimal light show, Bowie delivered a more hits-oriented set than was his norm in the '90s, including "China Girl" (
HREF="http://www.sonicnet.com/artists/clip.cgi?track=%7Ej-XXXXXX%2F1443102182000b11.ra">RealAudio excerpt), "Changes" and "Heroes" (RealAudio excerpt), in perhaps the least-reworked form of his career.
An inspired band helped keep things fresh during the nearly three-hour
concert, highlighted by the silent-movie/cocktail-lounge-style keyboards of Mike Garson, the muscular bass and vocals of Gail Ann Dorsey and the avant-metal guitar of perennial Bowie hired gun Earl Slick.
But the unexpected reared its head, as it often does at a Bowie gig, in
this case with hip reinventions of two songs that not only predate his
fame but also nearly predate his name. "I Dig Everything" and "The
London Boys" were released in the mid-1960s, shortly after Bowie ceded
his given name of David Jones to Monkees singer Davey Jones; Bowie sang them Monday night for the first time in more than three decades.
Another surprise was a gorgeous ethno-ambient jam that morphed into
"Let's Dance" (RealAudio excerpt), which left the crowd curious as to what the changeling rocker's next musical direction would be.
A Longtime Pioneer
Such risky change has been the only constant in Bowie's career
the forward-thinking artist already was promoting albums with music
videos on satellite television in 1976, according to Circus
magazine and it recently has taken the form of exploration on the digital frontier.
BowieNet, which is a music portal and information resource, offers
extensive exclusive audio and fan-artist interaction opportunities, in
addition to e-mail and other conventional Internet service provider
At a news conference before the show, Bob Goodale, president and chief
strategy officer of UltraStar which runs BowieNet and other
online entertainment projects and which co-sponsored the show with
computer-chip giant Intel and interactive online-audio provider Beatnik
said that this was not a hands-off vanity vehicle for the singer. "He's involved in everything," Goodale said. "People wake up dreading the e-mails he's sent with the nine ideas he dreamed up last night."
Scott Cohen, president of the Orchard, the leading distributor of
major-label and indie albums to online stores and download sites, said
he thinks Bowie's prospecting in the Silicon Rush is a sound move, even
if it needs a real-world component such as the Roseland concert to
attract and sustain subscribers. "This is part of the transitional phase
where the online and offline communities must work together," Cohen
said. "When music ultimately becomes easy to access digitally from any
device in any location, there [will be] no more 'offline.' [But] the
live music performance [will] never disappear."