Roxy Music 2001

Roxy Music Tour 2001

Monday, 16th July 2001

Toronto Sun
Toronto Star
Globe and Mail
CD Now
Helen Thorpe - a personal view


Roxy reunion a crowd pleaser

he first thing that crossed my mind last night at Roxy Music's show at the Air Canada's Centre -- part of their first tour together in 18 years -- was: "Where is Bryan Ferry?" I could hear him, but I couldn't see him.

Working way up high in the sixth-floor media gondola -- a necessity due to The Sun's deadlines -- Ferry's initial place behind keyboards on a riser to one side of the stage was initially obscured by the PA. Thankfully, he didn't waste too much time in running down to the front to shake his well-dressed backside, during the opening song, Re-make-Re-model, also the first track on the British art-rocker's 1972 self-titled debut.

But, really, wasn't his place always on the frontline?

Dressed in a black leather suit, offset by a stylish white shirt and shiny black dress shoes, Ferry is the quintessential romantic figure of rock with his elegant dance moves, yearning voice and sharp fashion sense. Now 55 years old, Ferry -- backed by original Roxy members Phil Manzanera on guitar, sax player Andy Mackay and drummer Paul Thompson, in addition to six other touring musicians including Toronto punk icon and guitarist Chris Spedding -- never really let the audience down on any of those fronts.

He even bothered to change several times, first into a white dinner jacket during set standout, A Song For Europe, and later into a flashier silver one for Avalon. (Interesting, both wardrobe choices illustrated his subtle change from glammy to suave personas as Roxy moved from the '70s to the '80s.)

The go-go dancers -- in miniskirts and boots no less -- who joined Ferry on stage for Both Ends Burning were also a nice touch. Same goes for the Las Vegas-style showgirls who strutted their red feathery stuff to Love Is The Drug and Do The Strand, the first two encore songs.

As for the rest of the band, Manzanera, Mackay and the thundering Thompson, in particular, all had their moments in the spotlight although most eyes were on Ferry. It was kind of hard to look anywhere else, the starry night backdrop and stage draped in silver curtains notwithstanding.

As for the audience, who ranged in age from their twenties to their sixties, they got to see one of England's pioneering art-rock bands, albeit without experimental synth guru Brian Eno, who never got on board for the reunion. Still, the crowd -- whose numbers were just shy of a sell-out of 9,000 -- seemed pretty satisfied with an Eno-less Roxy, clapping along to Oh Yeah and Do The Strand or singing the final words of Virginia Plain.

The two big questions from last night's show are why did Roxy Music, in their first North American appearance on this reunion tour, only play for 90 minutes? And secondly, what happened to If There Is Something, More Than This and Mother Of Pearl, three songs included on the European set list?

After 18 years, it would have been nice to hear that trio of classic Roxy songs and have Ferry and company on stage for just a little bit longer.


Sun Rating: 4 out of 5

WHAT THEY PLAYED: Re-make/Re-model * Street Life * Ladytron * While My Heart Is Still Beating * Out Of The Blue * A Song For Europe * My Only Love * Oh Yeah * Both Ends Burning * Tara * Avalon * Dance Away * Jealous Guy * Editions Of You * Virginia Plain * Encores: Love Is The Drug * Do The Strand * For Your Pleasure

More mascot than crooner

BRYAN FERRY: Roxy Music frontman always looked like someone born to live out his life in a martini bar. If the Roxy Music reunion tour seems bent on proving anything, it is that there was more to the legendary '70s art rock band than its dashing frontman, Bryan Ferry. And the point is not entirely well taken.

Roxy Music, having reunited after 18 years on the shelf, launched the North American leg of a global jaunt last night at the Air Canada Centre with a furiously paced but unbalanced set that more often cast Ferry in the role of mascot than crooner.

At 55, the singer has retained much of his suave, rakish appearance. After an opening stint on the piano, he strode to the front of the stage, dressed from tousled-haired head to toe in black leather. He changed jackets as the evening wore on, but whatever he wore he always looked like someone born to live out his life in a martini bar. The voice is another matter. It would be difficult to testify to the status of Ferry's pipes on the basis of one performance, particularly when his voice sounded undermixed for much of the show.

At its best, Ferry's voice is a contradictory instrument, the jerky cadences of his singing playing against the smoothness of his manner and appearance. On this occasion, however, he was simply drowned out by the big sound around him, the lyrics barely audible above the din on such early numbers as "Street Life" and "Out Of The Blue."

Ferry was at his most eloquent and forward on the rendition of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy," which landed near the end of the 75-minute set. It was also the tune that provoked the biggest response from the largely enthusiastic crowd, bringing the entire house to its feet.

More often, Ferry seemed content to cheer the efforts of the band, including guitarist Phil Manzanera, sax man Andy Mackay and drummer Paul Thompson, all of whom also appeared on Roxy Music's eponymous, 1971 debut album.

Manzanera was accorded several soloing opportunities. But in the prevailing spirit of generosity, so was second guitarist Chris Spedding, who stepped to the fore on "My Only Love."

Mackay let loose on a number of occasions, at one point delivering an instrumental interlude with accompaniment from violinist Lucy Wilkins, who also handled the synthesizer duties. To one extent or another, keyboardist Colin Good, bassist Zev Katz and backing vocalist Sarah Brown, were given ample opportunity to strut their considerable stuff.

Brown did justice to the seductive background cooing on "Avalon." The song, like much of the show, was played before an ever-shifting visual backdrop, in this case a rippled water effect that looked remarkably similar to an effect recently employed by Depeche Mode - drops hitting a placid pool apparently being this year's visual cliché.

More prominent yet was the tenacious dexterity of Julia Thornton, who filled in Thompson's drum work with a persistent devotion to the percussion instruments arrayed in front of her. It was possible to imagine, at times, that her attention to the cowbell was as vital to the success of Roxy Music's resurrection as the audibility of its singer.

No one expects to hear all or even most of the words at a rock show. But then it isn't every night that one goes to a rock show expecting to hear Bryan Ferry. Not as the frontman for Roxy Music, in any event.

This reunion has many ingredients for success. What it needs is that frozen moment in time, with Ferry standing at the microphone, his face glistening with sweat as he makes every syllable count.

Vit Wagner, Toronto Star

Something old, nothing new

oomer rock, once an activity with Promethean pretensions, has become the Further Annals of Humpty Dumpty. So many fragments from so many years ago, and so much money to be made from trying to put them back together again.

For musicians of a certain age, the question is no longer who 1rocks, but who's next. The latest answer is Roxy Music, together again after 18 years for a world tour that they almost promise will be their only attempt to climb back on the wall.

The band is one of the more exotic avatars of seventies rock. From the moment of its first appearance in 1972, Roxy Music proved it was possible to take a sophisticated, fragmented view of pop culture without sacrificing any of its readily available pleasures. Its singer and main writer, the miner's son Bryan Ferry, projected a queasy vision of the high life as something both exalted and banal. During the decade of its active existence, the band absorbed and recoded a wide array of styles and pop clichés, sometimes through homage-parodies of figures as diverse as Humphrey Bogart, Noel Coward and Wilson Pickett.

The return of Roxy Music has been well prepared. Virgin reissued the band's entire catalogue two years ago, under Ferry's close supervision. Ferry's own album of vintage covers came out in the same year, and he used the resulting tour to road-test some Roxy material. The results were evidently positive.

The band exuded confidence for the first date of the tour's North America leg, in the Air Canada Centre's Sears Theatre. Four members of the original ensemble, including Ferry, guitarist Phil Manzanera, reed player Andrew Mackay and drummer Paul Thompson, were joined by six musicians for a show that opened with an explosive rendition of the first song from their self-titled debut album, Re-make/Re-model. There, in a flash, was a complete and convincing recreation of the Roxy sound of old, with Ferry's anxious vocals, Mackay's squalling oboe, and Manzanera's wildly floundering guitar.

So it went, on a brisk tour of most of the highlights of the Roxy catalogue, including the relatively light-hearted Do the Strand, complete with go-go girls; the lofty passacaglia Song for Europe, and the band's powerful cover version of John Lennon's Jealous Guy. Ferry reprised his familiar role as slick-suited charmer, holding the stage even though his stinging vocal style meant that most of his clever lyrics were unintelligible.

The missing essential component, aside from keyboardist Brian Eno, was the sense that anything new was at hand. There were many fine rooms in this museum, but in the Roxy universe museums were always places to escape from, preferably in a fast car with a coldly beautiful blond in the passenger seat.

As well, some rust had settled into the old hands, particularly Manzanera. His manic noodling seemed even less purposeful than on record, and was cruelly exposed for the gibberish it was when guitarist Chris Spedding stepped up for a taut and beautiful blues dialogue with backup singer Sarah Brown.

After so many years of deprivation, the fans accepted everything with rapture. That included a scorching violin solo by the young Lucy Wilkins, who came as close as anyone could to stealing the show.

The opening set was performed by Rufus Wainwright, who knows a thing or two about glamour. His song California, from his recent album Poses, was an object lesson in how influential Roxy's brand of pop ambivalence has become. Perhaps that's the main reason the current Roxy tour seems untimely. The band's mentality has become so much a part of the pop-cultural landscape, from the synth quartet Ladytron (named after the Roxy Music song) to Quentin Tarantino, that it's difficult to feel it as the distinctive contribution it was.


Roxy Music Fans In 'Sheer Heaven' At Toronto Tour Kick-Off

ime stood still at Air Canada Centre Monday (July 16) night for Roxy Music's North American tour kick-off in Toronto. Bryan Ferry, now 55, was dapper and ever the cool frontman, even if the majority of the crowd was not.

The thirty-something concertgoers reacted as if it was the '80s, some having dug out the old rock attire for the occasion, lighting up spliffs and yahooing as if they were teenagers again. Others dressed as if it was a night out at the theater.

How Ferry can get away with wearing a black leather suit -- and wearing it well, even his wardrobe changes to white and silver blazers looked elegant -- doing matador moves, and encouraging overhead claps without looking dopey for his age, is a mystery. But, the man still has it. Such superficiality aside, the 7,000-plus fans were in sheer heaven from having the opportunity to see the legendary British romantic-pop group reassembled after 18 years.

While Brian Eno's absence was missed, original guitarist Phil Manzanera and sax player Andy Mackay were given plenty of adoration and applause, as were the other seven musicians, including drummer Paul Thompson and guitarist Chris Spedding.

Ferry graciously gave all the band members the chance to breathe and shine in the songs, with guitar, violin, sax, and piano solos in such numbers as "Ladytron," "Out of the Blue," the darker "A Song for Europe," and the powerful end to "My Only Love." The playing was indeed impeccable, but one couldn't help but wish Ferry would one day tour solo; just him at the piano hammering out the oldies.

Instead, the show was a little kitchy and overblown, especially when go-go girls emerged onstage for "Both Ends Burning," and Vegas-style showgirls in full feathery headdresses for the encores "Love Is the Drug" and "Do the Strand." But while "Re-make Re-model" from Roxy Music's 1972 eponymous debut (which led the 90-minute show) might have been an immediate and startling reminder that the '80s are long behind us, some songs -- such as "My Only Love," "Avalon," and "Jealous Guy" -- are still absolutely gorgeous and stand the test of time.

Lounge maestro Rufus Wainwright, who jumped on the Roxy Music tour after the cancelation of Wotapalava (allstar, July 6), gave an endearing, if purposely sloppy, performance, as he played songs from his two albums while people got settled in their seats. "My new album is called Poses and if everyone buys one, I'll be headlining this place," he quipped.

Joined by his sister, Martha, on guitar and backing vocals, and bassist Jeff Hill, the singer-pianist-guitarist didn't seem bothered by the scuffling about during his 45-minute set. Instead, he amused himself (and those respectful enough to listen) with his between song chatter, and dedicated the whole night to the two Greenpeace activists who climbed Toronto's CN Tower Sunday (July 15) to hang a banner protesting Canada and America's inaction to global warming. "That takes guts. This is nothing," said Wainwright.

Karen Bliss CDNOW

he mood in the Air Canada Centre, a typical hockey arena cavern, was more than expectant. I overheard a lot of "I don`t believe this is happening" type comments. And I was thinking the same thing. I`d seen the TOTP2 performance. I`d heard the Glasgow concert. But this was for real. Finally.

The arena was in a "half bowl" configuration, meaning a capacity of about seven to eight thousand people. The front of the stage was hung with the double headed phoenix (or is it an eagle?) banner, and the crowd was one of the most diverse ever seen. Twentysomethings who had seen Velvet Goldmine to the forty-to-fifty crowd reliving their youth.

At 9:20, the lights went down, and South Downs started playing over the PA system. The crowd hushed.

"Dim the lights - you can guess the rest"

Remake-Remodel - and they did. The power of TGPT`s drumming. BF in black leather belting out the tune like it was 1972 all over again, and PM grinding out chords on the red Firebird.

Streetlife followed. The crowd still hasn`t gotten over the power Roxy is producing. This ain`t "The High Road" boys and girls!

Ladytron. AM`s oboe gets lost in the mix. ZK`s bass is a powerful low growl, and PM attempts to throttle his white Stratocaster to death in the solo.

Heart Still Beating sounded the best I`ve ever heard it. Had to be TGPT`s drumming.

Out of the Blue, again AM`s oboe was lost in the mix. LW practically had an orgasm in her violin solo.

Song for Europe. What can I say? CG`s piano intro was absolutely beautiful. BF appeared in a white tux jacket, and AM has a blast (literally). A personal highlight.

My Only Love. PM has the black Les Paul out. Spedding`s guitar solo was excellent, if expected, and I got the distinct impression that the crowd did not know what to make of it. Until the end. Spedding and Sarah Brown got some of the loudest cheering so far in the evening, and a standing ovation.

Next up - Oh Yeah. The audience let out a huge cheer - this was one they knew. And we even got to see a couple slow dance in the front rows. Yup - the audience still had their bums in their seats.

Both Ends Burning. Andy McKay was in fine form for this one. The dancing girls behind TGPT managed to get sections of the audience up and moving. This one was basically a rave-up.

Tara. Beautiful. I wasn`t sure what to expect. Tasteful, classy. A piece of musical art.

Bryan comes back onstage in a silver tux jacket. Phil had his jacket off by now. As BF gets to centre stage he decides to introduce the band. "And the man who needs no introduction from me - The Great Paul Thompson!". Crowd goes nuts!

Avalon comes next. Good song - standard treatment. Dance Away follows, and seems to be another standard treatment until the end, when someone screws up. Not sure who - but the grins flashed around the stage told the story of a bunch of guys on stage having fun.

Jealous Guy finally gets people moving. Standing ovation right from the start. Ferry`s voice still seems fresh. He`s in better voice than I`ve heard in years. I notice one young lady with floor seats trying to snap a photo of the band with a small camera from the aisle. Security escorts her back to her seat. Give it a break, boys! From my vantage point - they didn`t look to be being polite about it.

Editions of You. About time - the set was starting to lose momentum. Lucy goes bananas on the VCS2. BF is having a blast egging on the sidestage seats into a "clapalong". The song sounded just as contemporary today as it did nearly 30 years ago.

Virginia Plain is next. The floor seats are all standing. Julia Thornton is head-banging like she`s in Iron Maiden. But, when it gets to "What`s her name...?" Toronto tentatively whispers "Virginia Plain?" It`s not a question, people!! End of the set

Encore is: Love is The Drug. I danced - and I don `t dance to this tune. And Phil`s Firebird was back for its second appearance of the night.

Do the Strand - finally Andy`s jacket is off! The dancing girls are here again. Its the showstopper is always has been.

And Finally - For Your Pleasure. It was beautiful. It was my pleasure to be there. Thank you, guys. And now I know where TGPT gets that great drum sound from - mallets. A vastly different end to what most of the crowd were expecting too. The curtain dropped back into place and the houselights went up.

WOW. I can`t wait until Boston.

Helen Thorpe

Roxy remodelled

ike any good piece of theatre, it opened and closed with curtains, boasted enchanting set decor (in an inexplicable forest motif), while the narrative was broken down into three acts -- or make that Bryan Ferry wardrobe changes. Act 1 set everybody straight -- yes, this version of Roxy Redux (featuring originals Ferry, sax man Andy Mackay, guitarist Phil Manzanera and drummer Paul Thompson sans synth-wizard Brian Eno) still knows how to pick their art out of their trash and vice versa, and yes, Bryan Ferry is still the only man on the planet who can make a black leather suit seem dignified.

Machine-gunned opener "Remake/ Remodel" -- the first song on the first Roxy album -- reminded us just how much Thompson's seismic stomping was missed on the later records, while the ensuing parade of vintage material ("Street Life," "Ladytron," "Out of the Blue") showed Roxy have correctly assumed that any renewed interest in the band owes more to a post-Velvet Goldmine/Hedwig reclamation of the early catalogue than to perpetual airplay of "More Than This" on EZ-rock radio. The band's choice of couture -- long overcoats in loud colours that make them look like some glitter-rock mafia -- also proved that Roxy haven't lost their keen sense of the ridiculous.

Stranded's brooding piano piece "A Song for Europe" ushered in Ferry's white-jacket phase, and then it was goodbye '70s sleaze, hello '80s condo background-dinner music: the Flesh + Blood numbers found Mackay playing less like John Coltrane and more like Kenny G., the supporting players each took extended solo spotlight turns and the video screen flashed tranquil footage of rolling clouds and water drops, the sort you'd find on some New Age self-help tape.

A rip through Siren's "Both Ends Burning" (complete with leather-tubed dancing girls) and another Ferry switch to silver lami prevented a full-on free fall into cocktail-lounge complacency, and once he got"Avalon," "Dance Away" and "Jealous Guy" out of his system, it was back to business.

A blazing "Editions of You" let Mackay and Thompson go apeshit once again, spurred on by some Eno-worthy Theremin freakouts, while set-closer "Virginia Plain" made a case that beneath the infinite layers of pretense and poses, Roxy Music are just a brilliant little rock 'n' roll band. They're still a damn fine disco unit, too, as evinced by the
encore "Love Is the Drug" -- an obvious choice, sure, but still a clear-cut cocaine classic, followed by a double shot of For Your Pleasure: a suitably over-the-top "Do the Strand" and the cooly dramatic title track, during which the Roxys left the stage one by one.

Ferry, naturally, exited first, coaxing yet another standing ovation and walking away with a mile-wide grin, content in knowing that, some 30 years on, he can pit bizzarro alien sex-rock against lite-jazz yuppie pop and still walk away looking like the coolest motherfucker in showbiz.


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