Roxy Music celebrates 50 years, with a reunion show to remember

cigaretteman

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May 29, 2001
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Anyone who attends a high school reunion expecting classmates to look like they did back in the day will surely be disappointed. Likewise for anybody who showed up to Roxy Music’s Friday show at Capital One Arena, (commemorating 50 years since the release of the utterly British band’s debut album) with the expectation that things will sound just as they once had. But, the songs remained the same. And what songs!


Bryan Ferry, Roxy Music’s vocalist and once one of the most charismatic and influential frontmen in rock, will turn 77 this month. The sounds and moves that made him famous in the band’s early days are understandably and utterly out of his reach now.
Yet even in the absence of high notes, the night had lots of highlights. Before “If There Is Something,” a sentimental tune off the eponymous debut record that inspired this tour, Ferry told the crowd it was hard narrowing down a set list from 50 years of songs. But, he continued, “we couldn’t go without doing this one.” Among its wistful lyrics: “The grass was greener when you were young.”



The band’s first reference in this newspaper came in a 1973 story about the first wave of rock acts that were using elaborate stage setups and costumes. Roxy Music had gotten more attention from U.S. rock fans for racy album covers than its music. The band was among those cited in the piece for having “played up the element of homosexuality” for “shock value.” No less than John Lennon came to the defense of such bands, saying that, no matter the packaging, it was still rock-and-roll. “The only difference is they’re wearing a lot of paint now,” Lennon told The Post. The band’s shock-rock days were revisited on Friday with a reprise of 1973’s “In Every Dream Home a Heartache,” an intensely creepy love song that shows Ferry mulling his affection for an inflatable doll. The knowing crowd jumped to its feet just as the song went from a whisper to a scream, and fans kept roaring as guitarist Phil Manzanera shredded over Paul Thompson’s pounded drums, and banks of spotlights flashed.
The tour venues seem bigger than the band’s popularity after all these years. Hours before showtime seats for the Capital One show were listed for just $7 on ticket reselling sites, and the arena’s entire upper deck was empty. But for the folks who showed up — many of whom were in the same age demographic as Ferry — what they lacked in numbers, they made up for in enthusiasm. Lots of fans came dressed in vintage band T-shirts and/or dinner jackets like those Ferry once wore, while becoming known as the most suave crooner in rock. The flock provided Ferry lots of vocal assistance on 1975’s up-tempo smash “Love Is the Drug.” Nostalgia is an equally powerful narcotic.
Roxy Music would eventually become far better remembered for new romantic balladeering than creepy or up-tempo stuff. And as the show wound down, Ferry led his bandmates on a sort of Murderer’s Row of slow-dance staples from the band’s 1980s catalogue, delivering “More Than This” and “Avalon” almost as spoken-word pieces, as a man who knows his vocal limitations would. The understated arrangements only added poignancy to these classics. Finally came a faithful cover of “Jealous Guy” — a song written by their old defender Lennon, that Roxy Music made famous. This confessional song was among the first tunes in which rock stars showed a vulnerable side. Ferry had already spent the whole show exposing his physical vulnerabilities, and did not push his vocal cords beyond their capacity here either. Manzanera’s guitar solo mimicked the verse’s incredible melody, as did Andy McKay’s sax turn, then Ferry nailed the whistled coda, just as fans remembered it. “Jealous Guy” was an amazing tune when Lennon wrote it half a century ago, and was an amazing song when Roxy Music recorded it. It was also amazing as performed on this night. As long as you know what you’re getting into, reunions can be very satisfying.

 
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noleclone2

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May 4, 2015
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