Roxy Live Review - Sun 1st Jun

Roxy Live Review
June 2003

Roxy Music

'Live' [Eagle]

by Jeff Miers for

Never has a band navigated the murky waters between melodramatic, pathos-infused cinematic pop and skewed art-rock dissonance with as much grace and seeming ease as Roxy Music. Schizophrenic from the get-go, the band's 1972 debut made its splintered manifesto plain, as vocalist-keyboardist Bryan Ferry's "Gershwin meets Greta Garbo at a posh dinner club in hell" approach sits atop the band's cold, angular rhythms and Brian Eno's extraterrestrial blips and bleeps. Roxy subsequently created an eight-album oeuvre that stands apart in the annals of rock. It's pop music that an intellectual aesthete, a Sinatra lover and a grizzled rocker alike can feel good about loving.

Eno dropped out after the band's second effort, "For Your Pleasure," and Roxy imploded after making the career-defining "Avalon" album in 1982, as Ferry set about his solo career in earnest. Ferry has since released several albums that rival Roxy's best in the ensuing decades.

Though Ferry, quite successful on his own, had no need for a reformation, Roxy got it together again in 2000 and toured the world - including a now-fabled Toronto gig - in 2001. "Live" is the souvenir of that trek, but it's also so much more. Minus Eno, not surprisingly, but bedrocked by Ferry, sax and oboe man Andy Mackay, guitarist Phil Manzanera, and drummer Paul Thompson, today's Roxy Music still manages to sound at once ahead of its time and of no time in particular.

This is no mere run-through of the band's hits, then, but rather a revisiting of the peculiar magic generated by the conflation of their talents. Arrangements have been updated, solo sections added, segues constructed. Auxiliary musicians - particularly bassist Zev Katz and guitarist Chris Spedding - invest themselves accordingly, and lend to the passionate sense of the moment. Above it all, Ferry shimmers, his vibrato-laden voice languidly inhabiting the spiritual world summoned by the players. It's breathtaking.

"Live" offers a tour through Roxy's spangled past, both the strange and the suave. The opening trio of tracks from the ensemble's nascent stage, "Re-Make/Re-Model," "Street Life," and "Ladytron," is bolstered by a blistering guitar presence and Ferry's uncanny ability to reinhabit his initial glam-rock/lounge-lizard persona. Fans of the early stuff won't be disappointed, as four tracks from the debut, four from "For Your Pleasure," one from "Siren" and one from "Manifesto" balance the healthy number culled from the slicker but equally groundbreaking "Flesh and Blood" and "Avalon" albums.

Recall, of course, that Roxy paved the way for some of the more important bands of the late '70s and '80s, including Japan, Talking Heads, and the Smiths, not to mention Talk Talk and Human league. With "Live," however, it's clear that in this instance, the first is still the best.

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