Reunited they stand... still
the best there was
Roxy Music were Britain's best band of the Seventies and could
not possibly have come from America.
When asked why Roxy had re-formed after 18 years, Bryan Ferry said
it was because they hadn't attracted any tribute bands. They are,
literally, inimitable. Few people can sing like Ferry, whose stylised
yodel has slowly grown into a warm croon; few can play guitar with
the Latin virtuosity of Phil Manzanera, and fewer still can play
the oboe at rock 'n' roll speed like Andy Mackay.
Nor are many musicians this tall. All three men are around 6ft
2in and they have reached their 50s without a paunch between them.
It makes life easier for the wardrobe mistress, who puts Mackay
in a deep-purple suit and Manzanera in a cream frock coat, while
the hired hands have to be content with black.
Ferry, back in the city where he grew up and went to art school,
ambles on stage in a reptilian silver jacket and black leathery
silk trousers, playing on his reputation as a lounge lizard. In
a neat twist, his clothes are designed by Tom Ford of Gucci, whose
signature style for men dark suit, white shirt, ease with a hint
of sleaze - was practically invented by Ferry. Later, he slips into
the old white tuxedo, and it gets a cheer of its own.
Ferry's hair is immaculately windswept, as if it had been given
a blow-dry by three hairdressers at once; knowing him, this is perfectly
possible. But, as usual, the idea that he is only interested in
looking cool evaporates when you see the way he moves. One of Britain's
bestdressed men is also one of its leading exponents of air guitar.
The Stage is decked out like an old cinema of the kind the band
named themselves after - all ruched curtains and bordello-red lighting.
In all the years Roxy were away, no band came along with the same
ability to make an arena feel like a theatre.
They have no new songs to play, and, judging by a recent interview
on TOTP 2, not much lingering rapport. But they retain an obvious
love for the songs, and the songs have not lost their capacity to
The set-list leans towards the first two albums, when Brian Eno
was still on board and every number fizzed with wit, invention and
show opens with Re-Make/Re-Model - neither remade nor remodelled,
just restored, like an oil painting, with the guest keyboard player,
Colin Good, using the same old Synths that Eno played 30 years ago.
Several of the otherhighlights come from the early days: A Song
For Europe, a ballad so romantic it now feels a hundred years old;
Editions Of You, pumping with flamboyant adrenaline; Do The Strand,
fast, foppish and funny; Both Ends Burning, wiggling and strutting
like the dancing girls who come on every so often.
The range is as impressive as the quality and you see how Roxy
have managed to influence bands as diverse as Pulp and Radiohead.
Avalon falls strangely flat and Dance Away is missing, but Tara,
a late instrumental featuring Mackay on sax, is gorgeous, and Oh
Yeah is an elegant rebuke to those who feel that Roxy went downhill
after 1975. They just became something else - less arty, less witty,
but more melodic, more rhythmic, more musical.
When old songs are this interesting, nostalgia is only a fraction
of their appeal. The experience is more like rereading a good book.
TIM de LISLE, The Mail on Sunday