Last week's release of the live double CD, A Reality Tour, was a welcome reminder of one of the more memorable Pittsburgh concerts of the Aughts: David Bowie at the Benedum Center on May 17, 2004.
The release was "a nice surprise" to bassist Gail Ann Dorsey: "I didn't know they were going to put this out until about three or four weeks ago." Dorsey was "picked out of the sky" by Bowie after seeing her on TV promoting her first solo record. She joined in 1995 for the dark and adventurous Outside album and tour.
Although A Reality Tour was recorded in Dublin, not Pittsburgh, the set lists were nearly identical, spanning Bowie's entire career. A highlight is "Under Pressure," with Dorsey singing Freddie Mercury's parts and playing that indelible bass line. She remembers Bowie knocking on her dressing-room door one night in 1996 and suggesting the duet.
"Queen happened to be my favorite band of all time, and I think he knew that," she says. Over the years, the duet "just got better -- especially listening to it on the new CD now."
Apart from the knockout performances, part of what made Bowie's Pittsburgh gig so great was the theater setting -- much more intimate than an outdoor pavilion show I saw in 2002 in San Francisco. (That my friend wrangled us seats 10 feet from the Benedum stage didn't hurt.)
"He was just the quintessential frontman," recalls Cindy Yogmas, longtime Bowie fan, local musician and occasional CP contributor. "I never took my eyes off him the entire time."
WYEP's Brian Siewiorek recalls "an excitement in the air," but remembers some issues with the Benedum: Some wanted to stand, others to sit. "Some sitting people behind us were cursing us out. Come on people, it's a rock show! Stand!" The show also ended after just a one-song encore, due to contract restrictions with the Benedum, for which Bowie -- who had more music prepared -- apologized profusely.
Speaking of ending too early, Reality was his last big album and tour to date -- perhaps for good. "Toward the end of that tour Bowie started having some heart trouble and canceled a bunch of dates," says Siewiorek. "Something tells me he's slowing down for a reason."
"Personally, every time I do a tour and finish, I think, 'That's my time with Bowie, I'm done,'" says Dorsey. But "you never know when someone's going to work again, or how long it can be between records."
In any case, I'm sure plenty in attendance agree with Yogmas: "Definitely the best $80 I ever spent."
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