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
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.