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David Bowie
Tuesday, Jan. 27. HP Pavilion, 525 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose, 408.998.TIXS, 7:30pm. $51-$76

When it gets hard to get a handle on David Bowie, I like to think of him as the Alfred Hitchcock of rock. Like Hitch, Bowie is equal parts populist and artist--he has a shameless, pandering pop streak a mile wide, but his genius as a craftsman makes him one of the all-time greats in the history of his medium. Hitchcock, too, kept reinventing himself, and his worst films were bad for the same reasons as, say, Never Let Me Down: bloated, empty and oversaturated, they were little more than the fumes of a tapped-out artist running on empty.

But whenever people thought they had Hitch figured out or finished off, he'd make the most shocking moves of his career, and Bowie is the same way. The trilogy of late-'70s albums he did in Germany with Brian Eno was his sonic Psycho; low-budget and minimalist, they even sound like they're in black-and-white. Similarly, his work in the late '90s, following the glossy indulgence of Black Tie White Noise, was the equivalent of Hitchcock's 1972 shocker Frenzy, a veteran artist giving up the comfort of his establishment work to go for the throat one last time.

The twist--and with Bowie, there's almost always a twist--is that for Bowie, it wasn't the last time. Instead, he rebuilt his career once again as a towering rock paradox: a superstar icon with a cult following. His latest entry in this chapter is Reality, in which he revisits the sound and feel of some of his Scary Monsters-era work, giving it the same 21st-century-modernist spin he put on his classic-'70s sound on 2002's Heathen. He says the songs on the album were "built to play live," suggesting his tour stop here in January will be a hot ticket. (Steve Palopoli)

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Winter Music Guide 2003
The Fingerbangerz
The Faction
David Bowie
The Matches
The Ataris
The Brian Setzer Orchestra
Good Charlotte
Hot Water Music
The Polyphonic Spree
Ticketmaster's new bid-for-tickets system
Winter music listings

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From the October 30-November 5, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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