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Thursday, 3 October, 2002, 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK
Bowie at his best
David Bowie at the Hammersmith Apollo
Bromley boy is back: Bowie as sharp as ever

"How does he do it?" the rather portly, middle-aged gent sitting next to me at the Hammersmith Apollo muttered. "He's the same age as me".

He was referring to the fact that despite the original Young Dude's advancing years - 55 - he looks and sounds as good as he did 30 years ago.

The voice remains an emotive tool par-excellence and the svelte, powder-blue suited boy from Bromley remains well, boyish.

He even jokes about his hair, remarking that he recently told a German reporter that it's really a wig.

It's as if he's as amazed as the audience that the years haven't had much effect on him.

The Thin White Duke's in a waggish mood, making constant references to his last gig at the old Hammersmith Odeon (in 1973 as Ziggy) "when I was just 14" and muttering after a storming version of Rebel Rebel: "I wrote that when I was 9."

David Bowie
Bowie has been in the limelight for over 30 years
Peppering a set made up of every part of his considerable back catalogue with tracks from the acclaimed Heathen album, he's quite obviously enjoying himself in such an intimate venue.

With a band featuring old cohorts - Mike Garson (on keyboards); Earl Slick (guitar); and Gail Ann Dorsey (bass) - Bowie treats the set as an excuse to revisit and re-version songs that haven't had an airing for many years.

Sprightly

Low-period gems such as Speed Of Sound and Breaking Glass in the hands of such a polished ensemble lose their European cold war edge and come across as sprightly and joyous, while a solo piano rendition of Life On Mars demonstrates just how awesome old Dave's way with a tune really is.

A duet with Dorsey on Absolute Beginners brings a lump to the throat, and by the time we get to a rousing version of Heroes the crowd is on its feet.

Saving the Ziggy Stardust classics for the end of a mammoth set, Bowie and company never falter.

It's hard not to detect a sense of occasion considering how long it is since this venue last reverberated to these songs - on the night that the Man Who Fell To Earth announced his (premature) retirement.

Despite at times seeming a little too eager to please the fans, on this evidence alone it's a good job that he wasn't being serious all those years ago. How does he do it indeed?

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03 Oct 02 | Entertainment
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