Chicago: Roxy Music at the Allstate Arena - Mon 30th Jul

Chicago: Roxy Music at the Allstate Arena
30 July 2001

August 1, 2001 by Jim DeRogatis, pop music critic of Chicago Sun Times

"There's a band playing on the radio, with a rhythm of grinding guitars." Those words from "Oh Yeah," one of several standout moments Monday night at the Allstate Arena, hinted at one of the main reasons that reunited English art-rockers Roxy Music were so thrilling: the scorching guitar solos of Phil Manzanera.

Donning three suits over the course of the evening, Bryan Ferry remains one of the most stylish and distinctive vocalists in the history of rock. At 55, he has aged far better than Mick Jagger, Roger Daltrey and other '70s icons, partly because he adopted the persona of a jaded European sophisticate back when he was still in his early 20s and partly because he has never stopped challenging himself artistically

But the magic of Roxy Music was in hearing Ferry flanked by Manzanera, who deserves a place in the pantheon of guitar heroes right beside Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, and woodwinds player Andy Mackay, an incredibly versatile musician who underscored the band's many gorgeous melodies. Hard-hitting drummer Paul Thompson, another original member, was no slouch, either.

Can a rock band claim to be anything but a nostalgia act when the "newest" song that it played during a 16-tune set was 19 years old, and the oldest dated from 1972? Heck, no. But there are credible, exciting nostalgia acts and ones that are only going through the motions for the moolah. Roxy Music delivered the goods, emphasizing why it has influenced countless bands that followed, and doing justice to one of the most innovative catalogs in rock.

With seven talented backing musicians joining the four founders, the set touched on every era of the group's initial 10-year career: the gonzo glam/art-rock of the early albums with Brian Eno ("Re-make/Re-model," "Ladytron," "In Every Dream Home a Heartache"), the signature hits of the mid-period ("Love Is the Drug," "Out of the Blue") and the lulling, proto-new age music of the later days ("Avalon," "Jealous Guy").

The band was surprisingly ragged at times, especially on the more sedate material. But in an era when too many veteran acts present their songs as pristine museum pieces, this was actually an asset: Roxy was definitely live, not Memorex.

The element of chaos that Eno added with his synthesizers and tape loops was missed on the skewed rockers, but in its stead, the band showed that it has perfected the slow, dramatic crescendo, a uniquely Roxy style of "jamming" that was beautiful, focused, distinctly English and nearly orchestral in its grandeur.

Aside from the lack of new material, the primary problem with an otherwise grand evening was the fault of promoter Clear Channel Entertainment. The sound was positively atrocious for the first four or five songs, and it was depressing to see these legends performing for a house that was only two-thirds full, especially when the size of the Allstate Arena had already been cut down by moving the stage forward.

The band belonged at the Auditorium, Rosemont or Chicago theaters, in a stylish, comfortable and acoustically superior setting, instead of a vast, impersonal, echo-plagued arena. But during the concert industry's summer of greed, simple factors like good sound and pleasant surroundings for the fans don't seem to matter all that much.

Previous Article | Next Article