David Bowie 11/13/2003: Bell Canada Centre Montreal, Quebec

When the lights shown down upon a previously invisible David Bowie during the opening number “Rebel Rebel,” the crowd erupted in celebrated excitement. There was a sudden concurrent awareness that a living legend had made his presence in that same room. And in this particular evening, no matter how big a room the mammoth 21,000 + seat Bell Canada Centre happens to be, when Bowie hit the stage, the once intimidating venue was dwarfed by his karma, history and presence.

The consummate musical chameleon, Bowie had his fans guessing up to showtime whether or not he’d even show up. After the first five gigs of his “A Reality” North American tour were cancelled due to a bout with the flu, Bowie made Montreal his tour opener, despite confessing he was still not feeling up to par. “I didn’t know if I could do the show tonight; I felt really ill, to be honest with you,” Bowie revealed near the end of his 110-minute set. Lucky for many fans that drove across desolate Canadian Provinces to be there, the show did go on.

Making the stage his weapon of choice, nobody aside from maybe Mick Jagger or the late Freddie Mercury could ever equal Bowie’s stage presence. He defiantly prances, walks, struts and makes the entire elevated platform an instrument upon itself. The 56 year-old, not looking a day older than 40, still makes the most of his time under the lights, as if he’s getting paid by the minute. Whether squatting to sing in the corner, receiving a bouquet of flowers, waving to star-struck fans, or marching and singing on a raised platform that would make most people woozy, Bowie let it be known that he is a star.

Alongside a trusty six-piece band that included lead guitarist Earl Slick- a legend himself who elicits a bit of Keith Richards growling power stance leads – songs spanning the icon’s almost 40 year career sounded fresh and inspired. For those catching their first Bowie show and hoping to get the hits, they had come to the right gig, as many of his biggest numbers were nailed – “Fame,” “China Girl,” “Under Pressure,” “Changes,” “Fashion,” “Ashes to Ashes” and “Life On Mars.” Veteran fans who have seen Bowie many times over the years may have wished for more oddities, instead of the “touristy greatest hits” package he delivered, but it’s when hearing those hits, that one realizes what a true contribution this man has made to rock and roll – present and past.

From “All the Young Dudes,” popularized by Mott the Hopple, and “Heroes” more recently brought to the forefront by the Wallflowers, to “The Man Who Sold the World,” the surprise hit off of Nirvana’s Unplugged 1994 release, Bowie has helped to indirectly make a sharp dent within modern popular culture. After performing “All the Young Dudes,” Bowie giddily admitted to his fans,”that sounded marvelous.” A nice remark to a song he’s undoubtedly played hundreds of times, making the crowd feel as if this evening was indeed special.

Following with an encore of the classic: “Five Years,” “Suffragette City,” and “Ziggy Stardust,” Bowie treated the fans to more familiar treats. It was “Stardust” that his pronounced voice stretched to its fullest, making the story of the doomed messianic rock star, become born again. Fittingly, most everyone in attendance felt reborn as well.

Setlist

Rebel Rebel, New Killer Star, Reality, Fame, Fashion, Cactus, Afraid, All The Young Dudes, China Girl, The Loneliest Guy, The Man Who Sold The World, Hallo Spaceboy, Sunday, Under Pressure,Life On Mars?, Ashes To Ashes, Never Get OId, Changes, I’m Afraid Of Americans, Heroes

Encore

Five Years, Suffragette City, Ziggy Stardust

Photo courtesy of davidbowie.com.

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