Concord: Roxy Music at Chronicle Pavilion - Sun 5th Aug

Concord: Roxy Music at Chronicle Pavilion
05 August 2001

Concord: Roxy Music at Chronicle Pavilion

LiveDaily contributing writer Jim Harrington writes:

CONCORD, Calif.--It had been nearly 20 years since we last sailed to "Avalon." But it was finally time to pack the bags again. The ultimate romantic-pop band--Roxy Music--was back.

Having disbanded in 1983 at the height of the group's success, Roxy Music's Bryan Ferry, Andy Mackay and Phil Manzanera reunited for a North American tour that kicked off last month in Toronto. By the penultimate stop on the tour, Sunday (8/5) at the Chronicle Pavilion at Concord, Roxy Music was hitting on all cylinders. It was a very welcome return to form for one of rock's more influential acts.

Of course, the knock on this show was that Brian Eno wasn't taking part, and so it wasn't a real reunion. Whatever. With Ferry crooning, Mackay blowing the sax and Manzanera strumming the guitar, we had the classic Roxy lineup that was responsible for so many memorable dance tracks and romantic-pop albums. Plus, the concert offered longtime Roxy drummer Paul Thompson, as well as one of the sharpest backing bands that I have heard in sometime.

Roxy Music isn't touring behind any new studio album, which meant the musicians didn't have to force feed any new tunes down the throats of fans who just wanted to hear the hits. And all the big tunes sounded good, from "Love Is the Drug" and "Do the Strand" to "Jealous Guy" and "Mother of Pearl."

The 55-year-old Ferry is still as suave and cool as a Sean Connery-era James Bond, moving through tracks like "While My Heart Is Still Beating" and "Avalon" with a type of haunting melancholy that is all his own. The vocalist has always been a man of great style. Dressed like his mates in a natty sports coat for a lovely summer evening, Ferry seemed timeless and detached, like a movie character living a brief moment in the real world. Guys nearing retirement age aren't supposed to be this hip.

Although Ferry is the undisputed frontman, Roxy Music is definitely a full band. Mackay's horn work defines Roxy's sound on songs like "India" and the wonderful "A Song for Europe." Manzanera was playing like he had something to prove, pulling out gigantic guitar solos and huge riffs on such tunes as "Street Life," from 1973's "Stranded," and "Both Ends Burning," from 1975's "Siren." For those brought up on the lush, romantic torch songs of 1982's "Avalon" album, the sheer ferociousness of Manzanera's playing can be startling.

Roxy Music clearly doesn't have the same draw that it once did. The Chronicle was maybe half full. A tip of the hat to Ferry, Mackay, Manzanera and crew for ignoring the empty seats and playing the house like it was a sold-out baseball stadium.

Rufus Wainwright, son of folk music icons Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, was an unusual choice to open the show. Originally set to spend his summer with Pet Shop Boys and Soft Cell, Wainwright jumped onboard the Roxy reunion run after the ill-fated Wotapalava tour was canceled. Wainwright's latest album, "Poses," is a joy, but the crowd clearly wasn't in the mood for easy acoustic folk on this night.

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