David Bowie A Reality Tour Review

Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Bowie’s continuing hunger sets a fabulous example to new artists.

Mike Diver 2010

David Bowie’s greatest hits live!” reads the sticker on the attractive packaging of this newly released, but recorded back in 2003, two-CD set. And nobody’s going to be complaining that the promise isn’t delivered, as Bowie – backed by a solid yet flexible band that hits each peak with precision – runs through elegant renditions of his most-pervasive successes. Under Pressure, Rebel Rebel, Ashes to Ashes, Ziggy Stardust, All the Young Dudes: all present and correct.

Like R.E.M.’s recent Live at the Olympia set, A Reality Tour was recorded in Dublin; the crew must come cheap. That, or fans in the Irish capital are simply unbeatable. The latter argument for the recording location is supported somewhat by the accompanying credits: after listing the various musical contributors, the emotionally charged audiences at the Point Depot” are acknowledged. And there’s no doubt those in attendance make themselves heard, though such is the high-quality mixing work on this release that their vociferous appreciation is kept at a distance until such a time as a roar is absolutely key.

The crowd is stirred into its most feverous state when the bona fide classics are aired – the aforementioned, as well as the likes of 1975’s Fame, old favourite The Man Who Sold the World, and Five Years, the opener on 1972’s certifiable collection cornerstone The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. But comparably lesser-known selections are received well, too. Battle for Britain (The Letter), which takes clangourous industrial rock on a fly-by of drum‘n’bass, convulses to a singular beat; long-in-limbo effort Bring Me the Disco King, finally released on 2003’s Reality (his last studio album), is down-tempo jazz with tangible nostalgia in its lyrics; and Heathen (The Rays) shows that Bowie could still pen disarmingly direct, affecting pop of a very individual inclination 30-plus years after he started. 

With 33 tracks stretching well over two hours, A Reality Tour isn’t exactly suited to single-sitting listening. It’s also far from a genuine greatest hits collection, though it certainly does feature a number of Bowie’s most-loved songs. But it is a great document of one of the world’s most inspirational recording artists – and performers – proving that age can’t quench the man’s desire to create, communicate and, ultimately, entertain. A maverick talent whose place in the pop annals was assured long ago, Bowie’s continuing hunger sets a fabulous example for the up-and-coming could-be-‘Heroes’ crowd.

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