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THE LATE 1990s - where everything comes with inbuilt inverted commas - is exactly the right time for a comeback by The Wombles. The audience of twentysomething hipsters at the ultra-fashionable Regency Rooms variety show in London last week obviously thought so. They accorded the super furry animals' first live show for 24 years a standing ovation - before they'd even played a note.

As trendsetters wallow in the 1970s retro-chic of everything from Saturday Night Fever to platform shoes, you sometimes wonder why dedicated followers of fashion can't latch on to something fresh and innovative, rather than reheating a 1970s stew with ironic flavouring.

For all that, The Wombles did put on a storming show when they topped the bill last week. The show had up until that point been like a 1970s warm-up. Singer Jackie Clune had donned a Bacofoil jumpsuit and matching shoes to croon the timeless Carpenters number, "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft", and a naff comedian called Frankie Tan had impersonated such 1970s icons as Stingray, Swapshop, Top Cat and The Double Deckers. All that was missing was a song from Leo Sayer (he'd been at the Regency Rooms a couple of weeks earlier).

The kitsch host of the evening, Lenny Beige, gave The Wombles a suitably tongue-in-cheek billing: "You need a band to come back and show the kids how it's really done. They influenced a generation, and we've been recycling ever since. I'm gonna introduce you to one of the greatest bands ever ... " With a build-up like that, are you surprised the crowd went wild?

Led by the ageless Mike Batt as Orinoco, The Wombles proceeded, as they say in the heaviest rock circles, to tear up the joint. Which was all the more amazing given that on a sweltering night they were dressed not only in rodent costumes but hats and scarves too.

After bringing the house down, there was excitable talk of The Wombles playing the spiritual home of all cult acts, Glastonbury. Anything Rolf Harris can do ...

`The Wombling Song' is re- released this week.