Sydney: The stage is a DRUG - Sun 29th Jul

Sydney: The stage is a DRUG
29 July 2001

Sydney Sun Herald Author: Jim Sullivan 29 Jul 2001

Roxy Music play the Sydney Entertainment Centre on Monday, August 13. Phone Ticketek 0292664800.

Roxy Music didn't stick together, but 18 years after their break-up the trademark tuxedo has popped up out of the blue, Jim Sullivan writes.

AFTER blazing a dazzling art-rock trail during the early 1970s, after establishing themselves as the epitome of pop elegance through the early 1980s and after an absence of 18 years six more than their existence Roxy Music are with us once more.

Begging the question: Why?

``I guess it seemed the time was right," offered guitarist Phil Manzanera. ``It also happens to be the 30th anniversary, so that's a neat little thing. I sort of always felt there was a bit of unfinished business."

Saxophonist Andy Mackay said: ``We'd been in touch. Phil was best man at my second marriage. We talk. We talked about it in the early 90s and it didn't happen. Then this coherent offer was made with a certain number of dates and a set [financial] guarantee, so we knew we could do the technical side of it."

``There seems to be a lot of goodwill about, as far as I can make out," mused singer Bryan Ferry, who kept active with solo work over the years. ``I'd just done quite a long tour in the last year and, as the tour developed, I was adding more and more Roxy tunes to the repertoire. I enjoyed singing them very much. And I felt huge waves of appreciation from the audience. Couple that with the fact I've always been asked [to reunite Roxy] over the years, and this time it just made sense to do it."

Much like Velvet Underground, Roxy Music are one of those bands whose acclaim and influence far exceeds their record sales. Co-founder Brian Eno, of course, put a stamp on many a group directly through production (U2, among others), and indirectly in his own music through his jarring juxtaposition of sound and words.

But the band also inspired England's New Romantic movement in the early 1980s, which spawned Duran Duran, among others. They brought a sense of irony and style to the pop realm. And with the tuxedo-clad Ferry, they suggested rock'n'roll need not be a blue jeans and T-shirt affair.

Fans still remember.

``You go to get the milk in the morning and there's a guy delivering it to you who says, `When are you getting back together with Roxy?"' said Manzanera, who is a producer of Spanish-language rock'n'roll and has played as a sideman with Joe Cocker and Bob Dylan.

The three key Roxy Music members who all wrote songs together or separately for the band were speaking from London during a pre-tour rehearsal break. The tour brings them to the Sydney Entertainment Centre on August 13.

After 12 days together, Ferry said: ``There seems to be nothing but a good feeling towards the music. So far I've encountered no negatives."

He said the break-up wasn't contentious. ``Every band has its flare-ups, and I think we would go through frosty silences from time to time. But no, there was never a case of `musical differences' or any of that. I think at the end of the Avalon tour I just wanted to try different things and did that."

A while ago Ferry was driving in his car with a couple of his children. The songOut Of The Blue was playing quietly on the sound system. ``They said, `That was really good, that one, you should put that one out next'," an amused Ferry recalled. The kids didn't know that was a key tune on Roxy Music's 1975 album, Siren; they thought it was a recent demo.

``That was reassuring," said Ferry, who told the kids, ``Yeah, maybe I'll do that."

A revelation dawns: a generation or two of rock fans who've heard Roxy's albums and heard them praised as being pioneers have never seen them live.

The band was in the midst of assembling potential set lists for the shows when we talked. Asked which period he was closest to and wanted to play in concert, Ferry said: ``Obviously the early period. The two early albums [Roxy Music and For Your Pleasure] are very close to my heart, so I want to draw heavily from those. On the other hand, Avalon was the most successful album, so I think I owe it to the audience to represent that period as well. Those three albums. And the middle period, there's always Love Is The Drug and those songs from Siren.

``So I [have] about 40 songs on a wish list that I want us to run through and we'll see which ones we're going to finalise from that.

``The most fun for me will be doing the obscure ones, like Every Dream Home A Heartache." This is an eerie, slow love song to a sex toy, a blow-up doll. And how does it feel for a respected crooner to be singing a song to a polyethylene partner?

``Just like falling off a log," Ferry said with a soft laugh. He cherishes that music, which he terms ``interesting and dark".

Roxy Music 2001 will be fleshed out by three players from Ferry's previous solo tour, two other musicians, a back-up singer and original drummer Paul Thompson, who signed on late.

Eno, though on friendly terms with Roxy players, wasn't asked to join. A top-shelf producer, he has long stated his aversion to touring. ``No ill feelings," Ferry said.

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