Roxy Music Tour 2001

Madison Square Garden Theatre, New York
Monday, 23rd July 2001

New York Post
New York Daily News
David Breslin - a personal view
New York Times
Village Voice


IKE 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

f 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 perilously dated.

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.

Daily News Feature Writer

just 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 spectacular standards.

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 sound.

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.

interesting personal 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

Roxy Music Returns, Still Eager to Dissect the Good Life

early 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 material.

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.


For Roxy Music Fanciers, a Soaring Reunion

OXY 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 divine intervention.

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.

Anyone expecting 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.

Joining Ferry 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.

The fittingly 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.

Steve Matteo

Another Fine Edition of You

eaming 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 a Heartache."

The come-hither 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.

Dennis Lim, Village Voice,