N THE 18 years since Roxy Music last played live,
their critical stock has risen. Unlike Brother-in-Glam David Bowie,
there has been no embarrassing latter-day attempts to engage with
the Zeitgeist. The enigma, in addition to the legacy, has remained
So, however cash-motivated this reunion might be - and it does
tie in rather neatly with a new best-of compilation, available in
all good record stores from the beginning of next month - it was
always going to be an exciting prospect.
Erstwhile synthesiser wizard and girlie dresser Brian Eno was the
only original member to decline the invitation to the party but
as the group slammed into a frenetic Remake/Remodel - the greatest-ever
love song to a car - it was clear that, save for his glittery eyeshadow,
he was not really missed.
Roxy, as we pathetically-loyal fans like to call them, has the
nostalgia show sussed from the start, grabbing the audience with
a stimulating volley of early favourites, then splitting the two-hour
set democratically between singles and album tracks, with an evenly-paced
selection from throughout their career. They veered from a crazed
Editions of You and an explosive Virginia Plain to a sultry Avalon
and a silky-smooth More Than This.
Bryan Ferry was resplendent in silver lame jacket, Phil Manzanera
was laid back and cuddly, but it was Andy Mackay's musical input,
which added that special frisson, be it his frenzied saxophone on
Street Life or the eerie oboe on Ladytron. Dancing girls bopped
to Both Ends Burning, teasedduring Mother of Pearls and shook more
than a tail feather to Love is the Drug and Do the Strand.
However, the band didn't want the audience to have too much fun
and there were dips into ponderous guitar soloing, least anyone
forgets their art school roots.
Still, the welcome mix of mainstream hits with unexpected connoisseurs'
choices made this the best reunion of old geezers since The Who
being a Roxy Music reunion, the nostalgia is of
the most stylish kind. The website offers fashion tips for those attending
the gigs: white tuxedos for boys; outfits based on the album covers
for girls. Before the band appear on stage - the first time Bryan
Ferry, Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay have performed together for
18 years - a gauzy curtain pulls back to reveal archive footage of
the band, which later merges into live projections of the show, also
filmed in moody black and white. It's a flattering look for the trio,
with their combined age of 159.
rules over substance in the opening numbers (Remake-Remodel, Streetlife)
too, as the muffled sound - a bit like hearing Roxy through floorboards
- struggles in this vast, charmless arena. Ferry, in black leather
trousers and a silver lame jacket (then white tuxedo, then black
leather to finish), cuts a fine figure, dancing as if he is holding
Ken Dodd's tickling sticks then freezing in a still avant-garde
pose, a crab flaunting its pincers. Manzanera and Mackay sport brightly
coloured frock coats, somewhere between high Edwardian chic and
Teddy Boy streetwear. The stage set echoes the cover of Siren, all
deep blues and jade greens; behind billowing folds of organza there's
a big wodge of something that is probably supposed to look like
coral but actually looks like a giant piece of petrified broccoli.
At its best, the two-hour set re-creates Roxy Music's special magic,
their theatricality and musical agenda-setting; you can still hear
this on Ladytron, how it must have been sudden, bewildering and
unlike anything else. There are songs the band still love to perform
- Song For Europe, Mother of Pearl, Editions of You, Virginia Plain
- and during these, the reunion not only makes sense, you forget
they ever went away.
But reality kicks in on weaker numbers that perhaps they feel obliged
to play. On some songs they simply sound as if they've run out of
steam: Avalon is so half-heartedly done, we could be in the company
of a lacklustre tribute band. And all the sophistication drains
away as Roxy bring on the dancing girls. Sure, they always surrounded
themselves with glossy lovelies but now, with bus passes on the
horizon for the band, the girls look tacky. It's almost heartbreaking
to behold them writhing like table dancers for Mother of Pearl.
The trio claw back considerable credibility with a second encore
of For Your Pleasure, a sly twist of a song to end with. Its title
partly answers the "Why do it?" question hanging over
the reunion, but reminds us too of the days when they sounded and
looked like no one else, did things no other band would. During
the song, with minimal fuss, the trio leave the stage one by one,
and don't return for a final bow. It's a dignified way to end a
nostalgia-fest that could have been the first really undignified
thing Roxy Music ever did.
roll back the years in style
18 years of silence, Roxy Music have returned to the limelight,
reforming for a money-spinning, greatest-hits tour that will take
them across the world, and back into the hearts of thousands of
now not-so-young fans.
Original members - guitarist Phil Manzanera, 50, saxophonist Andy
Mackay, 54, and singer Bryan Ferry, 56 - cut quite a dash as they
relived their younger days: old hits such as Oh Yeah and More Than
This received an ecstatic response from the crowd.
Roxy Music, pioneers of the art-rock style that has bequeathed
the miserabilist experimentation of Radiohead to modern music fans,
were a glamorous, futuristic band in the Seventies, early adopters
of the synthesizer thanks to Brian Eno (who turned down the chance
to join this comeback). Over the decade, Ferry in particular evolved
into an elegant, sharp-suited style guru, and the look has stayed
with him into maturity.
The comeback tour can be beset with pitfalls, and Roxy Music certainly
ran the risk of destroying their myth, but in Glasgow they got away
with it. A small fortune will no doubt be made by the musicians,
but this is no hollow, money-grabbing reunion like that of the Sex
Pistols. Ferry claims that when he played some old Roxy songs on
a solo tour last year, the response was so great that he decided
to take the music back to bigger venues.
The advantage of an arena tour is that the crowd is too far away
to see your wrinkles. But the band coped with rockier numbers such
as Do the Strand and Both Ends Burning without looking like old
duffers, surrounding themselves with scantily-clad dancing girls
to remind people of the old glamour.
They did show themselves to be somewhat out of touch by grafting
tedious, meandering solos on to most songs. There were widdly guitar
bits everywhere, as well as solos by piano, violin and oboe. Most
seemed to be an opportunity for Ferry to change his jacket, but
even his whistling segment in Jealous Guy went on too long.
With no new material to promote, it's difficult to see Roxy Music's
reunion as any more than an exercise in nostalgia, but there are
few bands with so many great, timeless songs, and they should not
be forgotten. It's right that Ferry and his bandmates, rather than
some wearisome tribute band (Xeroxy Music?), should be basking in
adulation decades later.
David Smyth, Daily
and remodelled, Roxy can still turn on the old streetlife style
last time Roxy Music played in Glasgow in 1982 it turned out to
be their second last show on British soil. A subsequent concert
in Edinburgh and a lengthy American tour that took them into 1983
culminated in the winding up of the band.
At the time, the Apollo, where they played, was still Glasgow's
premier music venue and the SECC, where they performed last night,
was a piece of derelict shipyard.
But for a band who have been away for longer than they were together,
there was a remarkably slick entrance, which immediately took the
audience back to the first track on their first, self-titled album,
Though the advance publicity for the tour centred on the trio of
Bryan Ferry, guitarist Phil Manzanera and sax player Andy Mackay,
the later addition of drummer Paul Thompson perhaps gave more credence
to this expanded line-up.
Appropriately, the audience response was strongest when confronted
with exhibits from the peak period (1972/3) incarnation of the band,
many of which were augmented by a troop of eight dancers.
The prime examples - Editions of You, Virginia Plain, Do The Strand,
and For Your Pleasure were preserved for the climax of the set and
Beforehand, Avalon and the still sickly version of John Lennon's
Jealous Guy served as a reminder of where it all started to go wrong,
while My Heart Is Still Beating, and Mother Of Pearl trawled the
more interesting parts of the group's history.
The verdict? Well, when Ferry declared "don't mind these people,
come forward" there was a gentle surge to the front and while
this was tonnes more fun than a Ferry solo show, the ghost of the
absent Brian Eno loitered with intent.
With him on board and the energy of youth, Roxy Music must have
been one ofthe greatest bands ever. Fortunately, their return did
little to damage that reputation, if not quite living up to their
JOHN WILLIAMSON, Glasgow
good to be back
a clarion call from my youth, Bryan Ferry sends shivers down the
spine with a simple statement I thought I'd never hear again. "It's
great to be back," he says. "This is Roxy Music."
I can hardly believe it. The band I grew up with have risen from
the dead. It's 2001 and I'm with 8,000 ecstatic fans gathered for
Roxy Music's comeback gig at Glasgow's SECC. But a big part of me
has been transported back to 1972 when, as a teenager, I stood open-mouthed
in the Croydon Greyhound and saw for the first time the group that
defined my generation.
They last played together 18 years ago, bowing out after eight
hit albums and umpteen top 10 singles. But it's not about statistics.
I wanted to see if Roxy Music could recreate the magic of those
Well, hey Bryan, at 56 years old you bloody did it!
Sure, this four-month world tour could be classed as a money-making
exercise cashing in on people like me. But there were moments which
transcended all such considerations. The mesmerising show was packed
with Roxy's early material. They fairly ripped through stunning
revivals of Street Life, Ladytron, Both Ends Burning and Mother
And who else in rock but Bryan Ferry could garner applause by donning
a white tuxedo? Yup, we always appreciated his style. But his voice
was the main thing. And all the time the man's distinctive vocals
were complimented by the saxophone of Andy Mackay.
The final song was For Your Pleasure. The band then quietly walked
from the stage as the song's chorus beat out a repetitive farewell:
"'Tara, Tara, Tara, Tara..."
my dear, I don't give a damn. Who cares if Roxy
Music's reunion was inspired by a tax bill, a concern about the greenhouse
effect or Gus Poyet signing for Spurs. The best band that ever there
was (don't you just love these impartial critics?) were back, and
while doubts persisted, they were outweighed by the joy. But... could
Ferry still cut it at 56? Could Andy Mackay? Would Phil Manzanera
remember to hit his regulation number of bum notes? It's been 18 years
since they toured.
When the lights dimmed and we heard that familiar chinking of glasses
and party chatter - the opening to Re-Make/Re-Model, a noise that
wasn't so much a song opening as a statement of intent - you'd have
had to be a soulless soul not to have felt the hairs on your neck
shiver ever so slightly
Of course, they all looked depressingly good. Sharp and stylish,
Ferry slipped effortlessly into lounge lizard mode, changing jackets
to go over the leather strides - predictably the white tuxedo got
a cheer - while Mackay was a revelation on oboe and sax. The requisite
dancing girls filled in the spaces in between.
Any Roxy crowd is going to be split between two camps: those tastemeisters
who know that their first two albums are the finest records ever
made. and the misguided souls who go for the smooth mainstream soul/pop
of the later years. In Glasgow, there was no doubt that was where
the crowd's sympathies were - distressingly, the dreaded On The
Radio (? ed.) got the biggest cheer of the night - but, by the time
we got to an exhilarating Editions Of You, the 8,000 crowd were
ready to "Woooo" on cue with the Slinky sirens.
The set slipped between the two sections - Virginia Plain, Song
For Europe, Love Is The Drug, Avalon, Jealous Guy - and, allowing
for a halfhour or so warming-up period, they blew hot. Things ended
on a very Roxy note - eschewing the big show-stopping exit, they
left us with the spooky, discordant For Your Pleasure filling the
JEREMY NOVICK, Daily
years after Roxy Music bid a fond adieu to pop's
great party, they're back; dusting down their dormant muse and boarding
the reunion bus for a knockout replay of the Greatest Art-Rock Story
Ever ToId. Tonight, we get both chapters of their unique history:
the Beginning -the heady rush of their first three albums; each a
surrealist masterstroke of retro-futurist pastiche and ice-cold, exquisitely
And the EpiIogue: the sumptuous romanticism of swansong 'AvaIon'-
each number an ornate lesson in heartbroken Euro-pop. As a result,
avant-anthems 'Virginia PIain' and 'If There Is Something' are allowed
to gambol alongside such silver-flecked sophisti-pop standards as
'Oh Yeah' and 'More Than This', leaving Ferry to dance, as ever,
like grandma's over-egged soufflé. The effect is both disconcerting
and breathIessIy entertaining - the perfect reminder that Roxy always
spiked their awkward, art-pop cocktail with a pomp-defiating dose
Whatever the reasons behind their reunion, it's clear neither cynicism
nor the soulless sheen of professionalism has blighted their canvas.
Ferry, Phil Manzanera and saxophonist Andy Mackay still rock like
demons, still sound Iike the bravest, smartest, strangest band that
ever was. Almost two decades after they kissed their past goodnight,
Roxy Music are still, effortIessIy, the sound of the future.
Sarah Dempster, NME