A Reality Tour

David Bowie

Legacy, 2010

http://www.davidbowie.com

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/24/2010

A few years back, David Bowie took to the road for what would become his most extensive and well-received tour of his stellar career. Before setting out, he had promised fans that he was ready to sing just about anything, adding that the shows would also include several songs that for years he had refused to perform. 

Although the last few months of the tour had to be canceled due to Bowie suffering from a serious heart condition, the fact that he had already achieved what he set out to do more than made up for the abrupt halt to proceedings  I caught one of the shows here Down Under, and at over thirty songs, the almost three hour gig was easily one of the best shows I have ever seen to date.

It is somewhat curious to note that all of this took place seven years ago and that the DVD of this tour has been available for sale since its release in late 2004. So why the long wait for this double CD set?  Who knows, but it was well worth it, and at least Bowie now has a brilliant live album for sale instead of some truly horrid, half-assed attempts released over the last three decades. 

What makes this set so great is the fact that it contains pretty much the full standard set list of the tour. A few songs were changed every now and then, but what appears here is almost exactly the same show that I and millions of fans around the globe witnessed. Just like the DVD, this set is a compilation of recordings taken over two nights at Dublin’s Point Depot Stadium in late 2003.

Trying to choose the standout tracks here is impossible (almost, but more on that later) because the sheer scope of this collection is staggering, to say the least. Bowie certainly made good on his promise that no stone would be left unturned by the tour’s end, and proof of that lies in some unexpected but brilliant cuts like “The Motel” (from my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Outside) and “Sister Midnight” (the Lodger version). He even threw in a couple of killer tracks from his underrated drum-and-bass album Earthling with faithful versions of “Battle For Britain (The Letter)” and a personal favorite of mine, “I’m Afraid Of Americans,” which packs a much heftier punch live than it did buried on the Earthling disc.

A lot of material from his most recent (still) albums Heathen and Reality appears staggered throughout the set, and nearly all of the selected tracks actually strengthen the might of this set, as they complement his earlier work much better than some of his ‘80s stuff. Prime cuts from these two albums include vigorous workouts of “Never Get Old” and “New Killer Star” and somber but superb readings of “Slip Away” and “Heathen (The Rays).” 

Of Bowie’s “classic” years, there is no shortage of material here as well, and he and his crack band did a wonderful job recreating the vibe of Ziggy and the Berlin years superbly. “Changes,” “Life On Mars,” Heroes,” and of course “Ziggy Stardust” all sound stunning and are almost upstaged by a glorious singalong version of “All The Young Dudes,” a song Bowie wrote for Mott The Hoople. A couple of surprise inclusions during the tour are also here in “The Man Who Sold The World” and “Cactus,” which both get it done, while album tracks like “Be My Wife” and “Hang On To Yourself” sound just as vital as his classic gems.

The only flat spots are thankfully left to “bonus track” status, which appear at the end of the second disc. “Fall Dog Bombs The Moon” is one of my favorite songs on the Reality album, but in a live setting it really loses its mystical funk charm. “China Girl” is possibly Bowie’s best song from the entire 1980’s, but here it sounds a little understated; bigger would have been better in this instance. The third bonus track, however, is a welcome treat, “Breaking Glass” is right up there as far as his performance pieces go, and it has never sounded better.

There is one song that just absolutely shines brighter than everything else on offer here – a stunning, emotional and soulful performance of “Under Pressure” a song that Bowie recorded with Queen in the early ‘80s. Here, Freddie Mercury’s high notes are beautifully sung by Bowie’s longtime bassist/vocalist Gail Ann Dorsey, who just nails it. Her contribution both to the band and this one track cannot be underestimated. It was the centerpiece of each show during the tour and it remains so here on this set.

A Reality Tour is easily Bowie’s best and most comprehensive live album to date. Whether you love the old stuff or are a fan of his more recent material, there is plenty of Mr. Bowie here for all to get excited about.

Rating: A-

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