Roxy Music 2001Roxy Music Tour 2001

Wednesday, 20th June 2001

Manchester Evening News
Jim Wilkinson, Accrington Observer
(Thanks to Mervyn Day for sending this in)


S THAT grinding intro to Both Ends Burning struck up, Bryan Ferry hunched down in his silver tuxedo jacket, and duck-walked slowly from the wings, arriving at the microphone with impeccable timing to deliver the first line.

Behind him, a screen covering the backdrop flashed an image of Ferry in monochrome, as if to reinforce the notion of a star whose appeal is more Hollywood than rock and roll.

At 55, he's still got it - the hair, the male-model figure, the aristocratic yet bad-boy image.

But who would believe that Roxy Music, touring for the first time in 18 years, was just about the serpentine charisma of the front man would have been disabused of that idea by this show at the Manchester Evening News Arena.

Any suspicion also that this was a cynical effort to squeeze another pay day out of the back catalogue was dispelled in the first lusty parping of Andy Mackay's sax, the first searing riff from Phil Manzanera's guitar and the conviction behind that seductively wobbly croon of Ferry's.

Roxy Music were here to celebrate not the smooth Avalon era of early yuppiedom, but instead their spiky, adventurous art rock of the early seventies. Oboe and queasy guitar heralded Out Of The Blue like the intro to some hellish medieval dance, with Ferry delivering up the lyric with alluring sneer before giving a foppish half-curtsey.

Changing to white dinner jacket, Ferry gave a phenomenally powerful reading of the grand anglo-French ballad Song For Europe. Oh Yeah reminded us of the silken rhythms which were the hallmark of later Roxy, but In Every Dream Home A Heartache brought us back to the stark, challenging early work - one of the most disturbing pop songs ever to gain mainstream appeal and certainly the only love song written for an inflatable doll.

Virginia Plain sounded, suprisingly, just like the original. Brian Eno may have chosen not to join this reunion tour, but the archaic synthesizer technology was there, creating the familiar bustling sound. As Love Is The Drug set the fans moving in earnest, dancing girls in Moulin Rouge outifts came on stage.

Around the band, the set was a muted combination of fake foliage and ivy-covered garden wall, as if these artiest of rockers were playing in the grounds of a stately home.

Reinforcing that impression came the encore Do The Strand. ''Weary of the waltz - bored of the beguine,'' inquired Ferry, relishing the words like a rock and roll Noel Coward.

ONG before designer labels were widely available to Joe Public, Roxy Music were a cast-iron byword for all that encompassed style and taste. Being a bit avant-garde to start with, the Yanks never really cottoned on to them so they had to go all mainstream on the occasion of their first reunion in the eighties to gain mass approval.

But this gig, incredibly a virtual sell-out at the huge Arena, was aimed more at those fans who connected with Roxy from the off. A "TOTP2" appearance a couple of weeks ago didn't bode at all well - the original quartet of Bryan Ferry, Phil Manzanera, Andy McKay and Geordie bricklayer drummer Paul Thompson (rightly back in the fold after being ostracised during the over-overdubbed days of Avalon and such) looked to be edging dangerously close to an act on one of those sixties revival revues touring the seaside piers.

Ferry, still looking every bit the louche lounge lizard, was always a notoriously embarrasing dancer, but having survived the attempted dive-bombing of a Lagos-bound jet by a crazed passenger earlier this year, he has every reason to look uninhibited and thankfully his arch poses didn't come across as cringe-inducing as they did in the harsh glare of the TV cameras.

With no new material to air, Roxy, augmented by ace guitarist Chris Spedding who featured on several Ferry solo hits, and sundry other crack musicians, delved into their back catalogue and came up with a far-from-obvious selection. Those new romantic types who came to hear Dance Away, Avalon and More Than This were sorely disappointed by their absence from the 90-minute set-list. Ferry was greatly inspired by the reaction he got to more obscure Roxy items like Sunset on his solo tour last year. So the Manifesto-Flesh and Blood-Avalon period was only represented by Oh
Yeah and minor surprises My Only Love and While My Heart Is Still Beating.

From the opening piano intro to Re-make/Re-model it was obvious that this wasn't going to be a blandly-presented Greatest Hits package - heaven knows there are quite enough of those in Roxy's catalogue already, can any band ever have been compiled so frequently? And while there were just enough hits - Do The Strand, Street Life, Virginia Plain, Both Ends Burning, Love Is The Drug - to please the serial concert-goers who also turned out for the Eagles on the Monday of a wallet-whacking week - there were also sufficient semi-rarities to have the afficianados gasping with pleasure. The ever-weird Ladytron, In Every Dream Home A Heartache, a frantic Editions of You, A Song For Europe (freshened by a deft new piano intro by Colin Good) and Mother of Pearl all sounded as vibrant as on the days they were released more than a quarter of a century ago. And even Eddie Jobson's quite stunning violin work on the show-stopping Out Of The Blue was reproduced entirely faithfully by Lucy Wilkins. What a pity highbrow old boffin Eno wasn't keen on joining the fun.

Male fans however were adequately compensated for his visual absence by Roxy cover-girl types Wilkins and Julia Thornton sharing percussive and synthesiser duties. The encores upped the ante - the ensemble bizarrely joined by an exotic troupe of heavily-feathered tiller-girl types on Do The Strand - until Ferry and co pulled the old showbiz trick of departing the stage one by one as the unusual choice for a closer, For Your Pleasure, ta-ra'd its way to an eerie climax. The old boy had looked to be genuinely savouring the adulation he deservedly received and everyone played an absolute blinder. Don't expect to see Roxy on a Seventies revival bill along with the likes of Mud, The Sweet and Gary Glitter just yet. If this is to be their very final swansong, it was quite a way to provide us with the thrill of it all, all over again.

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