Roxy Music celebrates 50 years of touring Reunion Island: Concert review

Just over 50 years ago, on the same day, June 16, 1972, two albums were released that changed the landscape of rock and its sartorial splendour: Roxy Music’s self-titled debut album and “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders” by David Bowie. Of March. While each album was conveniently labeled as part of early glam-rock and its slow movement from Britain to the United States, “Roxy Music” was something that “Ziggy Stardust” was not, despite the size of the latter: downright bizarre.

Clad in a mix of greasy ’50s leather, silver spacesuits and more feathers than a cover of “La Cage aux Folles”, chirpy crooner Bryan Ferry, saxophonist/oboist Andy Mackay, psychedelic guitarist Phil Manzanera, tom-tom heavy drummer Paul Thompson and slick synthesizer player Brian Eno created a catchy, sinister and suave brand of loud avant-rock and lyrical Dadaist music like no other. And though Roxy Music had shifted to a more refined ambient sound by the time of the band’s final studio album, 1982’s “Avalon,” Ferry and company never quite lost their quirky tone.

It’s this blend of the urban, the polished, the soulful and the weird that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees are currently celebrating on their 50th Anniversary Tour. Reunited for live shows for the first time in 11 years, creators Roxy Ferry, Mackay, Manzanera and Thompson – minus Eno, and with other players drawn primarily from Ferry’s solo touring band – proved they could still make music that was elegant, eerie, eloquent and moving Thursday night at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia.

Outside on a starry, windy night, the atmosphere was perfect for listening to Roxy Music. Beginning with the fast, angular “Re-Make/Re-Model”, Ferry – seated at an electric piano – led the ensemble through the rapid pulse and crazy bits that made his original version of the album endearing. The familiar blips of the “Peter Gunn” theme, the full band cry of “CPL 593H” in tune with the singer-lyricist’s love of Duchamp and his out-of-the-box art form was a perfect first track to signal. what was to follow.

Although it took Ferry’s whispering croon a while to warm up, it did in time to meet and match Mackay’s hypnotic oboe solo on the sweeping “Out of the Blue” and the magnetically quirky ” The Bogus Man”. That Roxy did not avoid the phantasmagorical sensuality of this second album track – sung in Ferry’s deepest, creepiest baritone – and its twilight cousin, “In Every Dream Home, A Heartache” (about sex with a blow-up doll, with a propulsive finale thanks to the freak-out guitar of Manzanera) is what makes this band unique and beautiful, again. Think of another legacy rock act 50 years later performing their most sinister or morbid material. It will not arrive.

The slick and sleek “Avalon” portion of the live show was funky, classy, ​​and took up a good deal of concert real estate, from the military beat “The Main Thing” to Mackay’s haunting instrumental “Tara” to the serious and sensual note of Ferry. vocals throughout “To Turn You On”, through “More Than This” and “While My Heart Is Still Beating”. But it was the eccentrics who were both royal and ruled the evening.

The gasping neo-country of “If There Is Something”, the avant-garde and fiery tango of “Ladytron” (with its guitar and sax attack duel), the disco of death of “Love is the Drug” – the band’s biggest hit single got Philadelphia audiences up in arms, as did the manic punch of Roxy’s second album, “For Your Pleasure,” the “Editions of You,” and the rave-up “Do the Strand.” “. .”

A few questions about the setlist – why didn’t they do a stunner “Country Life” like “The Thrill of It All” or Rickenbacker’s “Take a Chance with Me”, both of which appeal? And why would Roxy Music, which boasts such quirky songwriters as Ferry, Mackay and Manzanera, close the finale of its high-energy, frenetic set with a mellow version of the band’s 1981 cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy”? ? Sure, it was nice to hear Mackay’s sweet sax solo and Ferry’s sweet black whistle at the end of the song, but with so many Roxy classics still unreleased, it felt like a missed opportunity to celebrate. . Maybe for the 60th anniversary reunion shows.

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