David Bowie's Screening in Hong Kong:</b> Upon the release of his 26th studio album Reality, <b>David Bowie</b> announced on NBC's morning Today show that he'll be playing some new places during his first world tour in a decade.

Just what does this trailblazer mean by that? Try Hong Kong and Singapore, though no specific dates were mentioned.

The current Reality world tour, which began this month with a sold out show in Copenhagen, is just one of several initiatives Bowie has been involved in as of late.  One would expect little else of the artist, who has created headlines by allowing the public to invest in BowieBonds, became one of the first singers to offer widespread downloads and was an early proponent of communication via email with the media. As a testament to his renewed creative passion, Bowie has once again reunited with producer Tony Visconti, which is good news for those who enjoyed their classic collaborations on Scary Monsters and Heroes over two decades ago. That's not all. The week of the album's release, Bowie became the first artist aside from heavy metal act Korn to digitally simulcast a live performance of his new album around the world.

This meant that a theater full of Bowie fans at Wan Chai's Convention and Exhibition Center got to interact with likeminded folk in Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney and Singapore at the same time. After watching Bowie perform the entire album in its entirety at a London studio, he then solicited questions from audiences in each city. Hong Kong's query Would you like to collaborate with Kraftwerk?  was lost on most of the assembled audience (It would be delightful to work with them. It's never been proposed. was the polite response) but there were other gems. What part of your life would you live over if you could? asked one audience member from Singapore. The year 2000 to now but back in 1967 was Bowie's witty comeback, which prompted further laughter from the man himself.

If the pre-screened Q&A session wasn't quite as revealing as one would have hoped (predictable queries about tour visits and current CD favorites were the order of the day), what was electrifying was the concept of an audience interacting with a musician somewhere else in real time. Effectively promoted, this could eliminate the current junket scenario where artists get subjected to thirty or more lengthy interviews in one day. It would also provide the opportunity for avid fans to interact with a star they would never get the chance to meet otherwise. Representatives from the regional office of Sony Music, who spent a rumored six figures for the promotion, agree. We've been working on this for weeks and while it's logistically complicated, it's a very effective way to promote the new album, says William Yu, a Regional Marketing Representative from Sony Music. Sony Music is the first company to do such a live showcase. I'm sure there will be more to come, he added.

So what makes such an event different from a pre-recorded program showing the same content? Everything and nothing at the same time. Bowie's showcase was shot using digitial widescreen cameras and recorded in DTS digital 5.1 surround sound. Then it was delivered digitally to theaters around the world. Visually, it puts fans right in the same room as those who are experiencing the event in person, complete with the same sound quality. Time zones permitting, it can also reach many more people around the world simultaneously. Never mind Bowie, the audible excitement emanating from the Tokyo audience was one of the most exciting moments of the entire event.

With such technology now in place, it paves the way for the possibility that some theater owners have been rhapsodizing about for years. The idea that a mega artist, say U2 for example, could be playing live at New York's Madison Square Garden, while broadcasting to theaters in Moscow, Jakarta and Sao Paolo at the same time. This would give fans access to artists they never see and artists access to places where they never perform, all at a price everyone can theoretically afford.

But back to Bowie. That promotion may or not have been the catalyst for Reality debuting at number one in half a dozen countries. Yet it's garnered a considerable amount of publicity for the new album (which is by no means his best, but at the age of 56 his effort is certainly more respectable than what many artists come up with at half his age).

Thankfully for fans and likeminded innovators everywhere, he shows no sign of stopping either. EMI Music Asia, with full and enthusiastic approval from Bowie, will be releasing new locally commissioned remixes of the eighties classic China Girl for inclusion on an upcoming Greatest Hits album. And who knows? If what Bowie says is really true, we'll be seeing him sometime early on in 2004 in Hong Kong. The real live variety, in person. Wouldn't that be something...

Review By: Scott Murphy

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