AREA 2 Festival featuring DAVID BOWIE with MOBY, CARL COX, TIESTO, DIGWEED, BLUE MEN GROUP and more, at the Molson Amphitheatre, August 5. Tickets: $45.50-$89.50. Attendance: 16,000. Rating: NNN
It's remarkable how easily Moby transformed himself from the earnest rave icon to the heavily sponsored pop star he is today. While he was once known for outspoken diatribes on the environment, Christianity and animal rights, he's now more famous for selling every single song off Play to advertisements and Hollywood movies. How he got David Bowie to open up for him on his Area 2 tour is anyone's guess.
Unfortunately, the first thing attendees noticed after being blown away by the tremendous bass coming from the PlayStation dance tent were the signs announcing that Busta Rhymes hadn't made it across the border. It triggered flashbacks of the year before, when the Roots were detained as well. At least this time around, organizers made sure there'd be enough room in the dance tent to avoid the huge lineups and disgruntled partiers of last year.
And what a tent it was: huge air conditioners attached to the walls, and a massive lighting rig to match the pounding piles of speakers. Trance titan DJ Tiesto got one of the best crowd responses of the day in the dance tent, the whole room raising their hands in the air for every breakdown, which started to look like a military salute after a while.
Carl Cox got a great reaction from the crowd as well, even though he was competing with Bowie for much of his set.
Bowie was easily the highlight of the mainstage, and also the chief reason many were there this year. His set was accessible to younger fans and rewarding for long-time listeners, touching on hits from all his eras, from Ziggy Stardust and Low to Scary Monsters and Let's Dance. His band was tight and at times creative in its arrangements, and the new material went over well.
Bowie's voice is maturing nicely, although he struggled to reach some of the high notes, and his improved control and expressiveness made the show closer, Ziggy Stardust, particularly memorable.
After that, Moby's lukewarm take on modern rock was hard to get into, partly because he's not a great singer, but also because he's not a much of a guitar player either.
Although he made a big show of running all over the stage and playing many instruments, for the most part they seemed to be turned down in the mix to the point where he might as well have been miming. This was exaggerated in the older rave anthems, to the point where he was often running back and forth across the stage frantically but not actually doing anything.