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David Bowie

Just a few days removed from a case of the flu that forced the postponement of several shows on this, his first Stateside tour in several years, Bowie looked wan and wispy enough to pass for his long-shelved Thin White Duke persona. His energy level barely wavered over the course of a perf that emphasized the darker corners of his career.

Just a few days removed from a case of the flu that forced the postponement of several shows on this, his first Stateside tour in several years, David Bowie looked wan and wispy enough to pass for his long-shelved Thin White Duke persona. His energy level barely wavered, however, over the course of a two-hour perf that emphasized the darker corners of his career.

Kicking off with a “Rebel Rebel” that waxed more nostalgic than dangerous, Bowie segued easily into a brace of songs from his latest album, “Reality,” landing a particularly strong psychic punch with the brooding 9/11 missive “New Killer Star.”

Band offered powerful, unobtrusive backing, with guitarists Earl Slick and Gerry Leonard alternating chunky glam riffs and slashing power chords sans the artsy fillips that have characterized Bowie’s live presentations since the late ’80s.

A midset foray into more atmospheric material let Bowie flaunt his still-rich baritone, sensually preening on “China Girl” and contemplative on “The Man Who Sold the World.” A similar sense of gravity reared its head later in the set as well, peaking on stark, white-hot versions of the doomy “Five Years” and “I’m Afraid of Americans,” both of which got plenty of headiness from the contributions of keyboardist Mike Garson.

Perhaps due to the tenor of the “Reality” material, Bowie shied away from his glossy early- to mid-’80s output. Only a handful of the singer’s slighter pieces — “Under Pressure” and “Ashes to Ashes” chief among them — made it into the set, and even then, the singer shunted them aside rather quickly.

Aud lapped up a glam-slam encore that resurrected Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” character. Couching a teasing “Suffragette City” in maximum archness and imbuing a closing take on the album’s title track with a spot-on dose of melodrama, Bowie allowed a little nostalgia to creep into his normally forward-looking worldview — but just enough to remind the crowd that his past exploits can still seem futuristic, even 30 years on.

David Bowie

Madison Square Garden; 19, 456 seats; $125 top

Production: Presented by Clear Channel Entertainment. Musicians: David Bowie, Earl Slick, Gerry Leonard, Mike Garson, Gail Ann Dorsey, Catherine Russell, Sterling Campbell. Reviewed Dec. 15, 2003.

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