Concord: Roxy Music's old favorites still pack powerful punch - Sun 5th Aug

Concord: Roxy Music's old favorites still pack powerful punch
05 August 2001

Published Tuesday, August 7, 2001 By Tony Hicks
**(NB. Towards the end of this review Mr Hicks has written that More Than This was played in the set. He made a mistake. It wasn't.)

Roxy Music's old favorites still pack powerful punch
Band mixes danceable tunes, soothing sounds to put on a stunning show.

BRYAN FERRY paused between songs early in Roxy Music's set at the Chronicle Pavilion at Concord Sunday night and made his only gaffe of the night.

He said it was "great to be in San Francisco."

Ferry's from Britain, so he can be forgiven just this once. Maybe he didn't take a gander out the bus window on the way in.

Geographical confusion aside, Roxy Music was stunningly good. It can't be easy to translate floating and sophisticated art-rock to a live show when you haven't toured in years, but everything came across gracefully, and at times, with uncharacteristic power.

Longtime fans will point out that the band had some pre-punk power in the early 1970s, carving a name for itself with records like "For Your Pleasure" and "Stranded." But the punch was overshadowed by a glamorous, patient and gorgeous sound with some danceability thrown in, especially in the late '70s.

The 11-member band came out blazing with "Re-Make/Re-Model" as guitarist Phil Manzanera began convincing anyone who didn't know better that he deserves mention as one of the great sonic experimental guitarists. Ferry strode out dressed in leather and worked up the crowd while Manzanera and saxophonist Andy MacKay traded screeching high notes.

Usually when you see guys in their 50s dressed that well onstage, they're playing stale Chicago songs. As strange as it sounds, with the ensemble rock opening heavily laced with saxophone, Roxy Music sounded similar to an artsy, synthed-up E Street Band -- an E Street Band from an alternative universe, but with some of the same rock 'n' roll intentions.

That's not to say the band abandoned the quasi-disco and slow, dramatic stuff. Quite the contrary; since Roxy Music has no new songs, it relied on the old material and the proven danceable formula.

But the show didn't come off like a greatest-hits tour. There was a certain amount of nostalgia, yes, but with a high degree of musicianship and players who feed off each other live. The delivery had a fresh feeling.

Despite Ferry's crooning and a well-orchestrated light and video show, Manzanera kept stealing the spotlight. Dressed in all-white and looking like he was about to embark on a Jamaican vacation, Manzanera straddled the line between Adrian Belew and David Gilmour, with alternating frantic and spacey, gorgeous solos on "Ladyton" and "A Song for Europe."

For a band that put so much production into its records, it did a great job of building on-stage dynamics, whether it was a violin solo building from slide guitar or Ferry playing some well-placed electric piano or harmonica on "Both Ends Burning."

There are so many faces of Roxy Music. The band could do a sci-fi soundtrack, play an art-school opening and hit a Studio 54 reunion all in the same week. Every song has a definitive beginning, peak and end. It was clear Sunday that this is how so many of the English pop-art rock bands of the '80s should have turned out.

The difference is mostly Ferry, who, in his multiple dinner jackets and slick hair, looked as cool and stylish as ever. His crooning was never geared for screaming teens, so it doesn't suffer from a lack of context three decades after the band's first record.

But Roxy Music did have hits and delivered them aptly Sunday. The band did its only British No. 1 single, the remake of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy," along with "More than This" and a patient and rich version of "Avalon." "Love is the Drug" featured dancers in red feathered Las Vegas showgirl outfits -- a nod to the gloss with which the band painted its later singles. "Do the Strand" bookended the show with a big number, much the way it started. There was little talk and no mention of any new records, which was OK. The show seemed to be enough for everyone, band included, for now.

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