DAVID Bowie has made a career of indecision. Apologists for the

bearded crooner are wont to commend his chameleon-like qualities, while

the less-committed find cause to fault his gnat-like attention span.

Whatever, with his last LP racing into rock's Bermuda triangle, the

singer and ham actor has now cast himself as the leader of Tin Machine,

a group purported to be of the no-nonsense, back-to-the-roots variety.

The nucleus of the band is the rhythm section of brothers Hunt and

Tony Sales who, 12 years ago, helped Bowie refloat Iggy Pop on his

powerful Lust for Life set. Reeves Gabrels and an unidentified fifth man

complete the live line-up, adding undisciplined metallic guitar to the


For Bowie it is a performance, and a curiously unengaging one, as he

rocks and rolls his microphone stand in the manner made unfashionable by

Rod Stewart's Faces. Nor is it a return to his roots; though the band's

smart attire apes his mod-era incarnation, the sound is the perverted,

ugly R and B of The Who Live at Leeds, right down to a punishing version

of Shakin' All Over.

For the audience it's a mixed blessing; the rare chance to unveil

Ziggy Stardust's tattoos clashing uneasily with the band's reliance --

cover versions excepted -- on the clumsy, undynamic stodge of pin

machines, self-penned numbers.

The biggest cheer of recognition is reserved for the riff to Wild

Thing, but the excitement subsides as the song mutates into the O-grade

anti-drug polemic Crack City. For all their experience the band are poor

timekeepers, and Bowie's voice is at sea with the very notion of

high-volume aggression.

The staging is simple. White lights cast long, blue shadows on a film

screen to the rear, but the sound is never less than cluttered. The low

point is Bus Stop, an unfortunate brush with country and western, and

the peak is the band's uncannily shrewd refusal to play an encore.

Having tossed, in time-honoured fashion, his sweat-soaked towel at the

crowd the grinning Bowie promised his group would return to repeat the

experience in the New Year. This raised just one question: Why?