Empty seats greet Roxy Music at Tweeter - Thu 19th Jul

Empty seats greet Roxy Music at Tweeter
19 July 2001

THE Philadelphia Inquirer Review by Tom Moon INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC

In interviews to promote Roxy Music's first tour in 17 years, lead singer Bryan Ferry and guitarist Phil Manzanera both marveled at the demand for a reunion and spoke of the "goodwill" they felt from fans.

Apparently not much of that affection emanated from the Philadelphia area: There were many empty seats under the canopy at Thursday's Tweeter Center show, and only a few hearty souls on the vast lawn. It may have been billed as an "event," but the show felt more like a greatest-hits cash grab, with only scattered moments of brilliance amid uninspired renditions of new-wave gems long past their sell-by date.
Not that this 10-piece version of Roxy Music, which included veteran guitarist Chris Spedding, was incompetent: Its treatments of "Street Life" and "Out of the Blue" faithfully replicated the grandeur and the carefully embroidered instrumentals of Roxy's studio recordings. And there were several moments of inspired ad-libbing, including Manzanera's slashing gallop through "Do the Strand."

But something is wrong when Ferry's gestures and costume changes - from a rumpled tux to a white party coat to a shiny suit - are more riveting than the music. At times, Ferry seemed to sleepwalk through his own songs. He pretended not to notice when - during the once-compelling "Both Ends Burning," a song that doesn't need sleazy staging - the band was joined by four dancing girls in hot pants. (At least when the girls reappeared in Vegas-showgirl regalia for the inevitable "Love Is the Drug" encore, their presence made sense.)

Though Ferry's voice was smooth and nuanced throughout, only on John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" did real emotion creep into his delivery. His delicate, almost weepy performance made that song, not the Roxy material, the show's highlight.

Opener Rufus Wainwright demonstrated to Roxy's more punctual fans that tuneful, intelligent pop music is not dead. Aided only by bassist Jeff Hill and Wainwright's sister Martha, he offered taut, tart treatments of "Greek Song," "Grey Gardens," and the introspective title track from his current Poses. All were spellbinding.

Tom Moon's e-mail address is tmoon@phillynews.com.

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