Roxy Music's for-your-pleasure album covers of the '70s, which picture
beautiful women dressed to thrill, the reunited legends of English
art-rock flashed debonair, decadent sexiness at Madison Square Garden's
Theater Monday. That dashing flash is a pretty good trick, considering
the band has been in mothballs since its post-"Avalon" tour in '83.
Bryan Ferry, the bleak-voiced,
world-weary but nonetheless charming lounge singer with lusty intensity,
was in full command of this performance.
Roxy's main man was
obviously delighted to be making Roxy music again with his mates,
guitarist Phil Manzanera and reed player Andy Mackay.
Keyboard wizard Brian
Eno elected not to take part in this reunion tour, so the band fattened
its sound with a half-dozen side musicians, a couple of backup singers
and a quartet of showgirls whose role was to titillate - just like
those old album covers.
The just-under two hours
of music was hardly a perfect show - things waned mid-concert. But
the band got a second wind with a storm of greatest hits late in
the show. But, in a way this retrospective performance mirrored
Roxy's roller-coaster career.
At the Theater show,
Roxy Music's set list was divided fairly evenly between kitsch (which
the B-52's snatched as the foundation of their act), bombastic Bowie-esque
glam and riff-driven uptempo rockers. None of this sounded experimental
in concert Monday, but back when punk was emerging and leftover
psychedelic bands still roamed London, Roxy was unlike anything
else in the record racks.
If you were to have
asked a dozen fans exiting the concert what the show's "moment"
was, more than likely they'd tell you it was Roxy's cover of John
Lennon's "Jealous Guy." It was terrific, as Ferry cemented his credibility
with the audience by delivering a version filled with rubbed-raw
emotion that brought him near tears.
His unabashed showmanship
on this all-apology song unglued the very sedate audience from their
seats and had them singing the number's simple backup vocals. His
smart, whistled finale to "Jealous Guy" was as memorable as Otis
Redding's goosebump-raising conclusion to "Dock of the Bay."
Ferry and company also
excelled on the blue-eyed funk of "Love Is the Drug," one of Roxy's
best-known, best-loved songs. "Avalon" (the title track from the
band's final, 1982 studio album) was romantic, and Ferry's voice
lent the song a soulfulness that wasn't duplicated in any of the
set's other tunes.
If this was Roxy Music
after an 18-year hiatus, the band in its prime must have been exceptional.
|A Roxy Reunion, Sleek Suits & All
nothing else, the reunited members of Roxy Music proved Monday night
that they still know how to wear a well-tailored suit. Singer Bryan
Ferry, in fact, wore three of them during the start of the group's
two-show run at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
For the first time since
breaking up 18 years ago, the principal members of Roxy Music .
Ferry, guitarist Phil Manzanera and saxophonist Andy Mackay . have
resurrected their sultry homage to the plush life. But like the
high fashion image for which they became famous in the 1970s, many
of their lesser-known designs have not aged anywhere near as well
as their classics.
Even though Roxy Music's
live performance did not impress, singer Bryan Ferry's wardrobe
certainly did. On Monday, Roxy Music touched on every phase of their
12-year career, from the early, proto-glam-rock strains of 1972's
"Re-make/Re-model" to the supple, ethereal romanticism of 1982's
"Avalon." But while the group's blend of rock, R&B and experimental
synthesizer sounds made them a pioneer of glam rock and New Wave,
in concert their frenetic rhythms and jittery keyboard solos sounded
Even Ferry's obsession
with swimming pools, beautiful women, country homes and the trappings
of luxury seemed oddly quaint. Perhaps those old songs foreshadowed
the crass materialism of today's rappers, but they now sound more
like the naive fantasies of a coal miner's son (which Ferry is)
impersonating a monied playboy.
The dashing bon vivant,
however, has become Ferry's defining role and he played it to the
hilt. Still a lithe clotheshorse, he changed from an iridescent
black pleather outfit into a white dinner jacket and then finally
donned a metallic silver suit.
With his easy smile
and smooth moves, he lived up to his billing as the Cary Grant of
pop music, seeming eternally distinguished even as he sang trite
lyrics such as "I hope something special will step into my life."
His crooner's take on John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" was one of the
night's high points.
Despite the archaic
sound of obscure tunes such as "Editions of You" and "Ladytron,"
there were some explosive musical passages. Manzanera and second
guitarist Chris Spedding exchanged vibrant solos, with Manzanera
displaying a range that encompassed everything from slinky, screaming
leads to dreamy, minimalist flourishes.
Backing musician Lucy
Wilkins took several winning violin solos. She also re-created,
on a vintage keyboard, the same electronic squiggles and warped
melodies that first brought attention to early band member Brian
Eno, who no longer performs live.
But enduring hits such
as "Love Is the Drug" and "Street Life" weren't able to overcome
the campy antiquity of "Do the Strand" and "Editions of You." Hearing
the band reanimate their back catalogue was something like leafing
through the faded pages of a vintage Vogue, peering into a remote,
exclusive cocktail party that ended decades ago.
By ISAAC GUZMAN
Daily News Feature Writer
read those ny reviews. wow. these guys have got
to take off their skirts and get with the program. too many backstreet
boys assignments lately or something.
the thing that i noticed
first and foremost about monday`s show (my third and final show
on this tour), was that the vast majority of the audience seemed
apathetic. i remember thinking how interesting it was that roxy
took their name from a cinema reference because i have seen audiences
in movie theaters exhibit more physical emotion. for example, at
the end of ladytron, when phil was truly "hedrixian" in his playing,
nearly the entire audience was sitting on their hands with that
look, like... "honey, i think we`re in the wrong theater."
no doubt, our narrow-minded
critics were among these boring fools.
if you had told me,
at the close of the last millenium, that not only would i be seeing
roxy again soon, but that this time it would include paul thompson
and they would perform remake-remodel; ladytron, dream home, heartache;
mother of pearl and for your pleasure, i would refuse to beleive
it. if you told me that not only will it happen, but there will
music critics assigned to review these events who will be unimpressed,
i would only laugh at such humor. i`ve stopped trying to figure
out what makes some people tick.
the show was the weakest
of the three i saw (the other two being in boston, where on saturday,
roxy nirvana was reached). however, it was still absolutely brilliant.
ferry seemed a bit tentative in his vocals early on, but gradually
came right around. the rest of the band performed at their consistently
of course, what does
a relatively uninspired crowd respond to most? avalon; dance away
et al, naturally (much like our untrusted scribes). yanick etiene
was an interesting addition. however, i actualy felt that she simply
made the versions of those songs sound more like the records...
which i don`t consider to be a good thing in this case: the tolerable
thing about the inclusion of the "less roxy sounding" songs has
been how much better the 2001, paul thompson fortified, versions
i was hoping that zev
katz would get a really big home crowd ovation. not. which was criminal,
given how well he played. he and paul were "one" on oh yeah, and
it was zev`s groove that made this version of jealous guy so moving
that it actually moved this crowd (the proverbial moving of mountains).
lucy added a really cool violin part to dance away that actually
gave this song something in which to be interested.
the obvious highlights
were as good as i have come to expect: remake; street life; ladytron;
out of the blue; both ends burning; my only love (with the amazing
interplay of solos between phil, bryan and, especially, chris);
dream home; editions; strand; pleasure. the majority of this crowd
probably didn`t deserve such a phenomenal show... at least the critics
sent to review it did not.
aside: after the show, i raced uptown to catch another show: this
was the first time i had caught myself in nyc since les paul began
doing his weekly monday night sets at a club called the iridium.
i was not going to miss this, and i felt that it would be the perfect
ending to a perfect night. not only was it as amazing as i thought
it would be, but les even covered one of the first standards that
ferry (and tgpt) ever covered: these foolish things. pretty cool.
speaking of ferry (who,
don`t get me wrong, i think is truly a musical genius), i`ve noticed
that the "ignorant" fan (as these two reviewers obviously are) tends
to focus almost exclusively on him. in so doing, they seem to miss
what is really going on. it`s funny... it seems to me that ferry
is doing all he can to put the emphasis on the band. he seems rejuvinated;
inspired by the spirit of roxy. i`ve even read somewhere recently
he said that as roxy became less like roxy and more like ferry,
they were not as good. i think ferry is great, roxy is a lot better.
i hope that he stays inspired by the spirit of roxy enough that
they continue to work together. this formula worked brilliantly
in the 70`s. it would work even better in the future.
i hope i see roxy again.
David Breslin, sorry,
that should be david breslin
Returns, Still Eager to Dissect the Good Life
baubles and gossamer lace decorated the Theater at Madison Square
Garden as Roxy Music, rock's most rebelliously stylish band, played
Tuesday as part of its reunion tour. Bryan Ferry, the band's singer
and resident matinee idol, pranced around making flamenco-dancer
gestures and deploying his patented vocal swoons. "All the way is
far enough," he sang in "Dance Away," neatly summarizing Roxy Music's
long journey over glamour's precarious edge.
Elegance is a contested
idea in rock, a music dedicated to smashing through society's divides.
From Roxy Music's emergence in 1971 until 1983, when the group disbanded,
it took on class as a barricade for storming, dwelling on and dissecting
the urge to ascend.
Tuesday's set traced
this confrontation with the good life, from Roxy Music's first shocking
outbursts to its knowingly decadent denouement. Early songs like
"Re-Make Re-Model," a love song to an unassailable beauty who is
probably a robot, played off against smoother hits like "Both Ends
Burning," about a less mechanical but equally treacherous love.
Mr. Ferry, a coal miner's
son and former student of conceptual art, plays the deft social
climber, but Roxy Music's plush fantasies are not so simple. Stained
with black humor or subtle despair, they focus on beauty's artifice
and luxury's frayed corners.
Many songs performed
Tuesday, from "In Every Dream Home a Heartache" to the florid "Song
for Europe," counterpoised cold, idealized femininity with expressive
but ultimately impotent male romanticism.
Desire is real, these
songs said, but society's remedy for it is fake, leading the seeker
of satisfaction on a painfully incomplete quest.
This message, perfected
by Roxy Music in the free-for-all 1970's, is relevant in today's
boom-and-bust era. The band's rock-fusion sound is also relevant
to current bands like Radiohead and Air, which may be why this reunion
tour has been greeted with joy rather than scorn. (Also, because
Roxy Music broke up at the height of its popularity, many fans have
never before seen the group.)
Roxy Music's sound also
confronts class, challenging notions of refinement. It goes from
chaotic to cool while remaining grounded in strange juxtapositions.
Live, its variety was provocative, even in the more sanguine later
The drummer, Paul Thompson,
was a strongman who turned gentle with startling grace. The same
was true of the guitarist, Phil Manzanera, whose explosive solos
matched Mr. Ferry's changes in temperature, but who also added filigree
to quieter songs like "Avalon."
Andy Mackay, the other
remaining original member, was equally supple on horn and woodwinds,
flirting with sentimentality and pulling back just in time.
This core was augmented
by a large band that included the ever- versatile guitarist Chris
Spedding and the sensitive background singer Sarah Brown. Lucy Wilkins
succeeded in the difficult role of synthesizer wizard, originally
held by the legendary Brian Eno; she also played some wild violin.
Roxy Music's return
was, like all reunion concerts, nostalgic, but because the futile
allure of nostalgia is one of the band's main subjects, the mood
had depth. The singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright explores similar
themes, and his opening set was an excellent complement. Playing
with a small combo, Mr. Wainwright offered his own critiques of
fashion, showing nerve instead of Mr. Ferry's cultivated discontent.
"See you next door one
day," he said as he ended his set, nodding toward the musician's
ultimate goal, Madison Square Garden. That's a social climb worthy
of his dreams.
Music Fanciers, a Soaring Reunion
MUSIC. Stylish and adventurous music is the aphrodisiac in
the group's first concert tour in 18 years. The Theater at
Madison Square Garden. Monday and last night. Seen Monday.
WHEN A BRITISH
AIRWAYS plane was plummeting into a desert in the Sudan last
December, after having been taken over by a crazed Kenyan
man, the pilots regained control and saved everyone on board.
They may have also saved sophisticated pop music.
One of the passengers
on board was Bryan Ferry, the lead singer of the group Roxy
Music. Ferry said that amid the grim situation, as the plane
lost altitude, he had the revelation that, after 18 years,
he would do another Roxy Music tour. While many reunion tours
come about because of money, this one perhaps came about through
Roxy Music is
hardly a household name, but for those who have followed the
group through several lineup changes (beginning with its earliest
incarnation in the early '70s with Brian Eno) and a couple
of comeback tours, seeing it live is a momentous occasion.
Aside from the
Velvet Underground, perhaps no rock group has been more obscure,
yet so influential. Precursors of punk, glam-rock and synth-rock,
Roxy Music, whose presentation is as visually stimulating
as it is musically revolutionary, are musical giants.
The main focus
of the group is Ferry, who has also recorded a slew of solo
albums. Looking better in a white dinner jacket than anybody
who has ever played rock, Ferry, had he been around in the
1930s, would have been under a multi-picture deal with MGM.
The suave lounge lizard with the style and moves of a '60s
soul man playing a smoky cabaret, is, unlike the pop poseurs
of today, the consummate vocalist, equally at home with raucous
art-rock, Cole Porter and well-crafted pop.
a watered-down nostalgia show was in for a surprise. It's
true that most of the night was taken up by many of the group's
'70s groundbreaking songs, including "A Song for Europe,"
"Out of the Blue," "Mother of Pearl," "For Your Pleasure"
and "In Every Dream Home a Heartache." But nearly 30 years
after being recorded, they still sounded light-years ahead
of anything being made today.
in the current 10-piece band is guitarist Phil Manzanera,
saxophonist Andy Mackay and extra-special guest, legendary
guitarist Chris Spedding.
The group's theatrical
presentation, which included Ferry crooning in at first a
leather suit, then the white jacket and finally a silver suit,
featured a video simulcast projected in an eerie monochrome
with washes of solarization.
titled "Both Ends Burning," one of the highlights of the evening,
featured four go-go dancers, and "Love Is the Drug" and "Do
The Strand" were accompanied by what could only be described
as tasteful, Vegas-styled showgirls in flaming crimson outfits
with feathery headdresses. Other highlights included "Avalon,"
"Dance Away" and a cover of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy," from
the rare, live High Road EP.
Seeing Roxy Music
in concert is a bittersweet experience. Its music is so powerful
that it only further highlights how vapid, juvenile and unsexy
today's pop music is.
Another Fine Edition of You
down at the Theater at Madison Square Garden last week, next
door to the venue they first played opening for Jethro Tull
in 1972, the reunited Roxy Music began with the cardiac resuscitation
of "Re-make/Re-model" (first song, first album, but no nostalgia,
"next time is the best we all know") and ended with the epic
fade-away-never of "For Your Pleasure" (notes on the art of
self-invention, "part false, part true"). In between, a democratic
spirit prevailed: All styles served here, from dadaist intergalactic
glam to creamy lovers rock. The mists of Avalon rolled in
midway like so much dry ice, but a generous portion of the
set emanated from deep within the velvet goldmine.
The jet-set troubadours
hadn't played together in 18 years, but you wouldn't have
guessed it from the onstage chemistry. Phil Manzanera's guitar
lines. fussy one minute, flammable the next. and Andy MacKay's
lithe reed accents were shored up by the robust tremors of
long-missed original drummer Paul Thompson. Bryan Ferry, meanwhile,
casually enacted the theory that the best Roxy songs are nothing
less than dense clusters of coups de théâtre. His vibrato
was in fine tingly form, he addressed the crowd mostly by
enunciating song titles ("Oh yeah-eah," "Dance away-hey-hey"),
and he donned a white dinner jacket (between black sharkskin
and silver lamé, sorry no tiger prints) for a cabaret interlude
that included "A Song for Europe" and "In Every Dream Home
sizzle of "Both Ends Burning" (with dancing-girl gyrations)
got the audience to their feet, and they swooned right through
to surprise set-closer "Editions of You," the flailing anthem
to love and regret in the age of mechanical reproduction,
and no-brainer encores "Love Is the Drug" and "Do the Strand."
The highlight of the evening, "Mother of Pearl," more than
ever seemed to encapsulate the Roxy mythology. A Dionysian
supernova unravels into a long comedown of louche, time-wasting
rumination (bliss just out of reach, indefinitely delayed),
as Ferry looks back on a trail of wrecked beauty, the complications
of hindsight no longer an illusion. Ever the rueful roué,
still so sheer and so chic, he always knew his strange ideas
would mature with age.