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Bowie stages artful return

What a strange, time warp year it is turning out to be: new albums from the Beatles and Queen, feature performances from dead artists; the Rolling Stones are on tour. And last night one of the most delightful surprises of all - David Bowie launched his stage renaissance with his first British concert in five years.

In the interim, the Thin White Duke has been exhibiting his paintings, making CD-Roms and an album featuring random computer mixes around a dysfunctional story - this was never going to be your average rock 'n' roll show.

The stage set was part artist's studio, complete with old chairs and tables and Bowie sculptured plaster mannequins hanging from the ceiling. As in the early Seventies, Bowie included mime and seemed to be acting out several roles.

His occasional glances backward were also surprises; a synthetised "Man Who Sold The World", his Andy Warhol tribute song, performed to chunky rhythms under what looked like a solarium.

The result was a fascinating return to form. Indeed, a faithfully reproduced, normal rock song - "Boys Keep Swinging" - seemed so out of place that Bowie introduced it with: "Let's do something really silly."

The support act was Morrissey, the anti-hero singer with The Smiths. He came on to a rousing rendition of "Jerus-alem". His performance did not live up to its promise.

David Lister