It was a great show. I remember watching a half dozen acts, including Jimmy Fallon, Wyclef Jean and the Counting Crows, as well as Bowie. But Bowie was the standout. His band -- not crappy, at all -- were the best musicians on the stage all evening. He played only a handful of songs, including some from a new album. The new songs floored me. Passionate, tinged with a mature sense of fear and alienation wound around a soulful grief that just seemed to speak for the general mood in Lower Manhattan in those days, seemed to speak for everyone in the crowd. He also played an older song, "I'm Afraid of Americans," a brave performance that seemed to question the role America's cultural identity played in making us a terrorist target. After that concert, I bought the 2002 album, Heathen, and found it filled with that same spirit -- an unvarnished determination, an embrace of America's wounds, flaws and joys, not shying away from questions, or from the sense of loss, but with a prevailing sense of endurance and even wonder. In those months, improbably, David Bowie became my church.
'The Next Day'
Now, does this fit in with your impression of The Man Who Sold the World? Of Bowie the glam rocker, or the zoot-suited soul singer of Young Americans or the suave heart throb of Let's Dance? Probably not. That's the point. Looking only at his hits, it's easy to have missed the importance of his music and career. Here are my top 10 reasons why you should pay attention to Bowie: 10. The new album. Titled The Next Day, this collection of songs is really a fine, fine piece of work. You can listen to it streaming for free on Apple's ( AAPL) iTunes ahead of its release date on March 12. The album has many allusions to the various periods of his career, a sort of stylistic retrospective, but all of it also sounds very current. Not as good as Heathen, but close. 9. These are the "golden years" ("whop, whop, whop"). He's 66 years old, raising a 12-year-old daughter and has just put out his first album in a decade. Heart problems sidelined him while touring in 2004, after the 2003 release of Reality. He's not toured since then, is not touring now and is being very selective about projects. But, particularly with this album, he remains an inspiration to anybody looking down the barrel of life's third act.