Moby’s ‘Area 2’ Tour
(DTE Music Theatre, Clarkston, MI – 08/06/02)
Arriving at the venue just as the completely-underrated Irish quartet Ash strike up the guitars, a quick sense of awe comes washing over me. No, not for Ash - although they are a great live band – or Busta Rhymes or even headliner Moby ! No, this sense of awe was building rapidly for the return of the Thin White Duke himself: the one and only, Mr. David Bowie. But more on that later !
Watching Ash perform you can’t but help wondering why it is that they’ve been so undiscovered for the past eight long years ! Obviously coming onto this tour through some form of previously well barricaded musical backdoor, Ash thump their guitars, strangle their vocals and make real rock music the way it should sound ! Sure there was only a bare handful of sporting cheerleaders sparodically lacing the empty seats before them, but Ash played on regardless of any and all worshippers ! Culling from their previous four albums, including the brilliant 1977, which included both 'Kung Fu' and 'Girl From Mars,' they also pulled from the new release Free All Angels playing the new single, ’Burn Baby Burn’.
Next up came the formidable trio known solely as the Blue Man Group. Man, are these guys the business or what ?! Having first found the public eye in some quirky ‘Pentium Inside’ TV adverts, the BMG set aside all norms of musical workability’s and take the stage as if it were their second home: ie, the Luxor in Las Vegas ! Basically a creative organization dedicated to creating exciting and innovative work in a wide variety of media, the BMG take to the stage blued-up and ready to enthrall the huge gathering. Playing everything ranging from plastic piping, fresh paint-drenched drums and even the edge of the stage, the three enigmatic bald and blue characters take the audience through a multi-sensory experience that combines theatre, percussive music, art and even a ting of vaudeville that is suitable for all ages.
In the Dance Tent was where all the techno could be found for the day. The air-conditioned environment was just peachy for all the sweaty young bodies that had encamped themselves in there for the day. Oblivious to any and all other acts playing that day on the main stage, the Dance Tent was the place to be for fantastic trance music. The line-up included both legendary British DJs John Digweed and Carl Cox. John Digweed, who just goes by his last name most times, is not as vocally active as his counterparts – especially Cox – but still manages to fill the dancefloor each and every time his sets play. Voted # 1 in a voter’s poll by DJ Magazine in 2001, Digweed is most definitely the people’s choice of the day, his music speaking volumes for the artistry that goes through his head each night.
Manchester, England born Carl Cox is a perennial favorite amongst clubland aficionados and is not only huge in stature but in sound too ! Generic beats possibly, but mixed the way he only can they become multiple HI-NRG bass beats that – with the use of his unique three turntable sound – suddenly create a definitive sound quite unlike no other. Look out for his forthcoming 2003 album Second Sign.
Back to the main stage and we’re just in time to witness the one, the only, the Thin White Duke ! Bowie strolls nonchalantly onto stage, his attire impeccable, his demeanor incredibly wrapped in self-confidence and self-belief. Wearing an elegant black suit, his white shirt unbuttoned at the collar, his royal blue bow tie untied and hanging symmetrically down from around his neck, the Duke greets his worshipers with a huge grin … and sunglasses ! With the sun dipping just below the roof top of the pavilion, the rays beam straight into Bowie’s face,
but he still knows that nobody came here to witness him wearing the damn things ! So, calmly and casually, he removes them, passes a quick quip that he should really be wearing them all the time though as with regard his different-colored eyes, one of them is truly only for show these days, and takes to his mic: funnily enough his eyes more often than not shut tight as lyrics begin to fly.
Pulling from his vast repertoire immediately, we chase the dragon’s tail of his ‘70s era as a quieter, revamped working of ’Space Oddity’ (aka ’Major Tom’) is spilled forth. Next is an extremely quick two minute cut from one of his early albums followed by a track from his Earthling album, wholly underrated-as-a-tune I’m Afraid of Americans.’ As he then announces that “if you like to drink then you’ll be like me” Bowie cascades straight into a rousing rendition of his classic ’Heroes’.
Pulling the beast into it’s final laps, Bowie himself seemingly content on staying up there all night, not a bead of perspiration adorning his forehead in the slightest, his musical sense not to cull too much from his new album Heathen (aside from the new single ’Slow Burn’) is rewarded quickly soon after. Letting the applause die down from his last song, the perennial crowd favorite ’Let’s Dance’ is brought forth to the immense delight of the followers, but it’s as the opening chords to ’Ziggy Stardust’ fall into place that the crowd suddenly find their depth of vocal appreciation. Walking off stage, arms raised (but not in a ‘V’ !), Bowie’s smile is both genuine and heartfelt. He doesn’t hang around to needlessly milk the worship, moreover knows when the time is right to say goodnight … and does just that.
It’s now 9.30pm and as the three Asian women take the stage, their bodies dressed in white, two of the shorter ones their hair entwined with red, white and blue thin shreds of cloth, they quietly sit down stage right and pick up their instruments: two violins and a cello. The crowd having witnessed the might that was David Bowie has now greatly dissipated leaving noticeably large pockets of empty seats callously spread around the undercover pavilion. Hey, it takes huge balls to have Bowie open up for you ! Joined by a few more backing players, the scene is orchestrally set as the music gently breaks forth laying the platform for which Richard Melville Hall (aka Moby) can at last spring forth. And spring forth is exactly what he does from stage right as he suddenly comes abounding onto the stage. Like a carefree child chasing a balloon, Moby skitters around the stage from instrument to instrument, never resting the flats of his feet to the stage for more than .5 seconds per pit stop. His facial expression never changes either remaining quietly strained, wholly drained and wildly busy.
To the fast-paced strains of ’Extreme Ways’, Moby – easily one of the most important dance music figures of the early ‘90s – lets his fingers snarl away at his guitar one minute, lets them dance sporadically over the keyboard the next, and finally throwing them up in the air to clap, grip and contort as he dashes around the stage like a child in need of Ritalin ! The powerhouse worldwide hit singles ’Go’ and ’Porcelian’ are brought forth next, the album track ’Rafters’ quickly following behind.
Knowing where I’m gonna be headed with this final paragraph, I should make it known that his next song, introduced as “the only cover you’ll ever here in my set,” was quite easily the highlight of this Area 1 re-run performance. Performing his version of the James Bond theme – from his I Like To Score CD, Moby’s guitar work is impeccable, his dynamic stage persona immeasurable and combined with the array of deep red and blue flashing lights, was one breathtaking three minute showstopper. But, therein lies the issue both I and about 10,000 other people had with his show tonight ! It was not, save for the odd shuffle of new songs, any different from his Area 1 performance in the slightest. They say that in this business you have to better yourself each and every album, each and every tour. Moby’s latest release, 18 is piss poor and his stage show is as stagnant a re-run as I’ve ever witnessed. Continuing on with other hits such as ’Bodyrock,’ ‘Southside,’ ‘Honey,’ ‘Find My Baby’ and the new single ’We Are All Made of Stars,’ Moby may have created a monster of a tour, but now he needs to learn how to tame it in order for it to stop from biting him in the ass !
Review and all Photos by Russell A. Trunk