“Thank you for coming tonight to our little tour,” dryly smiles Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry to a sold-out London crowd at The O2, the final date of the UK leg of reunion shows to mark 50 years since their debut album. If ever there was a band for dark but glam Friday nights, it’s these guys – but this ain’t no straight-forward hit parade.
Rumours suggest Roxy are stepping up the coveted Sunday legend’s slot a Glastonbury next year; previous favourites to tackle the challenge include Kylie Minogue, Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie and James Brown. Roxy are a band with a catalogue to go head-to-head with the best of them but, as they demonstrate tonight, why they still matter comes down to their many idiosyncrasies.
The daddies of art-rock who sent the first ripples of new-wave to push the boundaries of pop forever, Roxy in the ‘70s were even the band who David Bowie would say always kept him inspired and on his toes. Opening with ‘Re-make/Re-model’, the first track from their 1972 self-titled debut, seems a knowing nod to their legacy as a band who ripped it up and started again in a pop language of their own.
They way can still hold you with Ferry’s masterful lounge lizard majesty, Phil Manzanera’s coolly assured guitar god wailing, or even Andy Mackay’s knack for getting an arena on their feet with a sick electric clarinet solo. But this is not a rock panto clawing at former glories. From the sci-fi synth romance of ‘Ladytron’, the cosmic wig-out of ‘While My Heart Is Still Beating’ or the show highlight of ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’s menacing prog (the band’s own ‘Paranoid Android’), the band approach the performance with a certain wisdom and slick subtlety to let the set breathe with a certain class and grace. It’s like watching a disco ball slowly hurtling towards the ground.
The shimmering ache of the gorgeous ‘Dance Away’ marks the Roxy Express steaming into Banger Central for the rest of the set. All aboard! From the pop-noir perfection of ‘More Than Than This’ and ‘Avalon’, to the strutting proto-punk of ‘Editions Of You’ and the true spoils of space-pomp classic ‘Virginia Plain’, glammed up John Lennon cover ‘Jealous Guy’ and dapper finale ‘Do The Strand’, the final act alone would make for the ultimate Glasto legend’s slot. Keep ‘em crossed – if only in hope that tonight wasn’t the last we’ve seen of these all-time greats.
Roxy Music played:
‘Out of the Blue’
‘The Bogus Man’
‘While My Heart Is Still Beating’
‘If There Is Something’
‘In Every Dream Home a Heartache’
‘The Main Thing’
‘My Only Love’
‘To Turn You On’
‘More Than This’
‘Love Is the Drug’
‘Editions of You’
‘Do the Strand’