The Mirror - November 19th 2003



By Gavin Martin (Mirror Music Critic)

DAVID Bowie is the most celebrated chameleon in Britrock history but what was so dramatic about his homecoming gig was the absence of theatrical trappings.

Opening the British leg of his first global tour in over a decade, the 56-year-old was a man at ease with himself and his history.

In the past he was famed for spectacular costumes and a cast of characters that included The Thin White Duke, Aladdin Sane, Ziggy Stardust and assorted Scary Monsters and Supercreeps.

But greeting the 14,000 capacity audience at Manchester MEN Arena on Monday with an invitation to "sit down, stand up, do whatever the f**k you want" he was dressed down in jeans, T-shirt and sneakers.

His rapport with the crowd was warm and unaffected and self-mocking.

"Wake up kids, your Grandad is here," he joked at one point.

Aside from the video screens and a few dead twigs at either side, the stage set was stark and simple, allowing Bowie and audience to concentrate on the songs.

With one of his greatest bands behind him, he breathed new life and fire into long cherished favourites such as Ashes To Ashes, Rebel Rebel, The Man Who Sold The World and Fame.

The hardcore fans were thrilled when he dusted off relative obscurities Motel and Loving The Alien. No longer the drugged out alien of rock legend, Bowie's healthful lifestyle and domestic contentment has worked wonders for his voice.

His singing was particularly effective on newer material like the angry rock Never Get Old or the fraught ballad Loneliest Guy.

This is what set Bowie's show apart from tours by the Stones and Paul McCartney.

When rock legends of a certain age play new songs, it's generally a cue to take a trip to the bar but recent Bowie albums Heathen and Reality contain vital additions to his work.

The gig ended with three songs from his classic Ziggy Stardust, the 1972 masterpiece.

Three decades later Bowie proved he was still a master of the medium, able to bring alive dreams, hopes fears and fantasies in a way few can match.