Bryan Ferry feelin' the notes.
Story and Photos by Tony BonyataIt's not necessarily what you say, but how well you look when you say it.
Such seemed the credo of the newly reformed Roxy Music, one of rock's most engaging acts of the '70s, as they took the stage last Monday evening at the Allstate Arena. With no new material to perform, and without the quirky aid of their one-time resident whiz-kid and knob twiddler Brian Eno, they, nonetheless, delivered an electrifying set packed with a warehouse find of old favorites, all dressed to the nines.
Ever since their early days, original members Bryan Ferry (vocals), Phil Manzanera (guitar), Andy Mackay (saxophone) and Paul Thompson (drums) have had a penchant for fashion, in both their sound and vision. While the colorful suits of gold lame and leopard skin of their early years mirrored their eccentric glam rocking numbers of the day, as their music matured into smoother, more seductive works in the later '70s and early '80s their appearance took on a decisively more chic, high society edge, with elegant designer suits guaranteed to secure their invitations to even the most elite Vanity Fair soirees.
But despite the fact that this band has always put much of their emphasis on their visual style, they've always managed to raise the musical bar at least as high as their Windsor knots. Its been nearly two decades since Roxy Music has performed together live, but there were no signs of stagnation - in neither suit nor song.
Amidst plush red velvet, loosely draped muslin and a hazy cocktail-hour smoke, Roxy Music busted into a trilogy of early '70s glam rave-ups. On "Remake / Remodel" Ferry suavely warbled behind his piano, while Manzanera ripped through piercing leads and Mackay squealed and squonked on his sax with an advent garde adventurism. The numbers "Street Life" and "Ladytron" then shot like a bolt of white lightening through the forty-something dolled-up dames, suavely stitched gents and glitzed-out funboys.
The ever debonair Ferry, fit and slender, slipped from one smart suit to another as the band worked through their huge catalog of sophisticated, and at one time quite daring rock numbers. Augmented by percussionists, background singers, keyboardists and sexy dancers that go-goed and rhumbaed, the band ran through smooth versions of latter-day hits such as "Oh Yeah," "Both Ends Burning" and "Out of The Blue," which climaxed with the spectacular violin work of Lucy Wilkins. On "Avalon," from their final studio album of the same name, Ferry and bandmates took a backseat, giving the spotlight to the talented Haitian singer Yanick Etienne, who originally sang on the album version of the same song.
While these modern rock torch songs seduced the audience, it was their earlier numbers such as the eerie "In Every Dreamhome a Heartache," where Ferry, adorned in snow-white jacket and black pleather pants, coldly delivered this perverse sonnet to his plastic lover, along with the herky jerky "Do The Strand," "Virginia Plain," and a hypnotic take of their signature song "Love Is The Drug," that got the crowd on their feet.
With the music world currently devoid of fashion and style, Roxy Music's voguish return to the limelight managed to cut quite a welcome figure.
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