Friday, January 16, 2004

Concert Review:  David Bowie with Macy Gray, Rosemont Theater, Wednesday, January 14

It's astonishing that David Bowie has never considered live performance to be his strength since he is blessed with so much charisma. Besides showing off his stage presence in his show Wednesday at the Rosemont Theater, he also showed that he is one of very few rock stars who are still cool well into their 50's and that, unlike the Rolling Stones, he views touring as yet another opportunity for risk-taking, not just raking in the cash.

One downside of his making a specific effort to vary the set list each night of his three-date stop in Chicago is that he spent a great deal of time talking to the audience about each song; it came across as an attempt to remind himself and the rest of the band what they planned to play next. On the other had, they clearly put thought behind the arrangements, starting "Let's Dance" with a samba rhythm and "Heroes" with a raunchy guitar line.

He obviously couldn't do all his hits in a 2 1/4 hour set, but he chose from throughout his career, from "The Man Who Sold the World" through his excellent cover of the Pixies "Cactus" that highlights the song's sexual longing by bringing the vocals to the forefront. Plus he did lots of stuff from his latest disc Reality. Two timely selections were "Life on Mars" and "Ziggy Stardust," with enough mentions of the red planet to leave a NASA publicist giddy.

For Macy Gray, "neo-soul" hardly seems the right term.  Considering the sonic and visual references to P-Funk, the Jackson 5 and Morris Day & the Time she and her backing band made, neo-funk is much more apropos. The whole bunch of them looked like they were having a blast, and Gray really knew how to work the audience. It's unfortunate that the public hasn't embraced anything by her since "I Try," because she looks more likely to be written off as a one-hit wonder than  respected for the depth of her talent.

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