Roxy Music 2001Roxy Music Tour 2001

Thursday, 14th June 2001

The Independent
Nottingham Evening Post


A bunch of zealous guys

HE BACKING tape plays a mournful melody, "Avalon'' by way of Elgar and Williams. Projected on to the stage curtain the Roxy Coat-of-Arms, a double-headed phoenix rising from a laurel wreath, is more emblematic of an old European empire than a rock'n'roll band.

But then, after what seems an eternity, they're there, blasting away preconceptions with a giddy, unhinged "2HB" from their debut album. Out front, the triumvirate who represent the re-formed Roxy Music: Phil Manzanera, gold lame waistcoat, snake hips and searing guitar; Andy McKay in purple suit sporting a middle-aged paunch and playing wonderfully rude and toxic backs and clarinet. Then the old trouper himself, lounge lizard supreme, a benchmark for sophistication in silver Elvis jacket, it's Mr Bryan Ferry. But this is a Ferry who hasn't been seen for a long time. A man caught in a sonic whirlwind, re-energised by the sound of a band with few peers and even fewer antecedents in Brit rock history. Nottingham Arena

As he sings the lines "I tried and I tried but I could not find a way,'' it sounds like an explicit admission. Despite the years spent as lovelorn poster boy for the high life, nothing beats this.

The reunion may be just an exercise in nostalgia but for the band it's also a profound display of musical excellence. Some choices are surprising but welcome, drawn from unexpected parts of their canon. Additional members compensate for the absence of Brian Eno's genius but a large part of why they sound so good must be down to long-standing drummer, the great Paul Thompson. Barely recognisable from the sylph-like figure who adorned their Seventies' album sleeves, his playing is unmistakable, providing poised heartbeat and pulverising drive.

There are longueurs, however: over fussy arrangements for "When You Were Young" and "Editions of You" and intermissions to allow Ferry's costume changes. He dons the inevitable tuxedo before "A Song for Europe" which is delivered with a poignant mixture of Edith Piaf vibrato and tearful refinement. The song's ennui spoke directly to the subdued and regimented audience. "There's no today for us/nothing to share but yesterday.''

It wasn't until musical director and second guitarist Chris Spedding introduced "Same Old Song" that signs of life could be spotted in the aisles. Ferry's repeated hand-clapping exhortations eventually brought the crowd to their feet. The tumescent atmosphere that thrived in their heyday was barely discernible; the flashing Deely Boppers worn by one reveller not quite capturing the elegance to which Roxy once aspired.

GAVIN MARTIN, The Independent

Bryan at NottinghamRoxy's danceable solution triumphs again

K, so they're really old. The singer dances like a drunk uncle at a wedding. The guitarist looks like the bloke with a beard out of Rentaghost. They can only really have got back together for the money. And the really interesting one left in 1973. Oh yes, we know all about Roxy Music, don't we?

But such cynical thoughts didn't last very long last night. About ten seconds, actually, as the curtain rose (yes there was a curtain - this is Roxy Music, remember?) on a stunning rendition of 1972's ReMake/Re-Model, the first track from the Very first Roxy album, and archive footage shot past on a projected backdrop. Forget the band's long journey into the middle of the road; this was the sound that galvanised the charts in the 1970s and whose The Nottingham Arenareverberations are being felt even today.

Then they did Street Life. Then Ladytron. Then ... well, you get the picture. If I'd been asked for a dream Foxy Music set list as I went in, it would have been perilously close to this one.

The sound in the cavernous Arena - to which this was my first visit - was razor sharp. Bryan Ferry, his witty words still ringing true on the band's first tour for 18 years, sang beautifully throughout. And the endlessly inventive solos of guitarist Phil Manzanera and saxophonist Andy Mackay were the perfect backdrop.

Original drummer Paul Thompson is also back. His relentless battering was a key ingredient of the old band and it was great to hear him again.

Sure, this was pure nostalgia but, as Manzanera has pointed out, who else is playing this music? Roxy's curse is to have influenced entire waves of imitators by making records so peculiarly distinctive that few have dared to re-record the songs.

And what songs! For nearly two hours, they cranked out the classics. If There Is Something, Editions Of You, A Song For Europe, Mother Of Pearl, Love Is The Drug, Both Ends Burning ... oh, and they did Jealous Guy as well.

The ten-piece band included Nottingham's own Lucy Wilkins whose electrifying violin solo on Out Of The Blue and beautiful duet with Mackay on the instrumental Tara drew the cheers of the crowd.

Lighting checkIt was good to be reminded just how creepy they could be, too: In Every Dream Home A Heartache, a weird love song to an inflatable doll with consumer society as its real target, was as potent as ever.

Oddly, it was the softer More Than This which brought the crowd to its feet but the rapturous reaction brought out the best in an obviously delighted group. They even brought out the dancing girls for Do The Strand. Then the sombre, Enoesque For Your Pleasure left the crowd dazzled, the band exiting one by one as singer Sarah Brown repeated its strange closing mantra:

"Ta ra ta ra"

They'll be back, I reckon. If you know what's good for you, you'll be there as well.

SEAN HEWITT, Nottingham Evening Post
Back to the Roxy Music Tour Main Page