Melbourne: Long innings taking its toll - Thu 16th Aug

Melbourne: Long innings taking its toll
16 August 2001

This review is from The Age by Alan Attwood, 18 Aug 2001

WHEN Bryan Ferry performed at Melbourne's Festival Hall in 1977, Mike
Brearley was captain of the English cricket team and Jeff Thomson was
thundering in off his long run for Australia. Those gentlemen have long since hung up their creams. But Ferry is still at it.

On an evening when - surprise! - rain had delayed the start of play in
another Ashes Test in England, Ferry was on stage again with the
reincarnation of Roxy Music, the band that first made an aural and visual impression in 1971 (the year, incidentally, in which Australia's stand-in Test skipper, Adam Gilchrist, was born).

Joining Ferry on stage at the Rod Laver Arena, a fine place for tennis but a barn of a concert venue, were three other original Roxers - guitarist Phil Manzanera, versatile reed player Andy Mackay, and drummer Paul Thompson.
Also lining up were six more musicians. One extra and they would have had a cricket team themselves.

Reunion shows are always fraught with risk, especially so with a band like this. What was avant garde 30 years ago can now seem awfully passe. For Roxy Music there is another problem: while some of their songs (Avalon, Love is the Drug and John Lennon's Jealous Guy) are still on high rotation on golden-oldie radio, many of their earlier, most influential tracks(Re-make/Re-model, Both Ends Burning, In Every Dream Home a Heartache) are familiar only to those who probably still have the original versions on vinyl.

This made for some dislocation in concert: those who came for hits were underwhelmed by the first 45 minutes, which featured mainly early album tracks. These seemed to be of more interest to Ferry and the band, which performed perfunctory versions of some better-known songs (Dance Away; Oh Yeah). A sludgy sound didn't help. Only in the second half of the show, with high-powered renditions of Virginia Plain and Do The Strand, featuring some feathery dancing girls, was there palpable energy both on stage and in the stands.

The Roxers appeared unsure quite how to play it: whether to camp it up or be terribly serious about what they do. On Thursday night they tried a bit of both. Ferry himself appeared in no fewer than three guises: black leather suit; white jacket; shiny silver outfit. His vocals were more mannered than ever, even speaking some of the lines in My Only Love. And he didn't inspire confidence by continually flipping pieces of paper on a music stand. At best this was a song list; at worst, motivational notes or the song lyrics.

But he appeared to enjoy himself, doing the Aeroplane somewhat
self-consciously while the band did the Strand. Ferry's longevity as a
performer is remarkable. It should shame all those cricketers. Yet a line from Avalon lingered: ``Now the party's over; I'm so tired." Time for the Horlicks, chaps.

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