Atlanta: Fan Review from Reilly - Thu 26th Jul

Atlanta: Fan Review from Reilly
26 July 2001

Many thanks to Reilly for this review.

Pass between hedges at the top of a park path into a hidden amphitheater ringed by trees. Wide curved stone rows lead to the upper middle orchestra. Candlelit tables spread out below. Across the wide stage is a cream-colored curtain with the double eagle insignia beneath the band's name. Around the proscenium are satin drapes. A mirror ball hangs at center.

As dusk fades, a pair of bats cut tight arcs above the audience's heads. Lights out and the scrim glows periwinkle blue then deep violet, then deepest blue. The band name logo switches to the Stranded tiger stripes as the scrim rises for the opening piano of Re-make/ Re-model. A projection of hundreds of black & white early band photos barrages the stage, overlaid with monochromatic live video closeup of the performers playing on the stage, and intersected by fanbeams of saturated lights. The visual barrage matches the band's attack of this song.

Although the band is large, each component stands out clearly, like an acoustic jazz ensemble. The drumming is solid. Vocals are supple and fresh. The sound level is not loud enough for the upper orchestra, so it is necessary to listen closely. At times the mix has buffers of space between the instruments, as though projected from multiple stage monitors instead of stereo stacks.

Re-make/Re-model tromps out vengefully, with ferocious drumming from Paul Thompson. For each "solo", the video feed gives closeups of things like the antique switchboard synth, and Ferry's absurd piano abuse. It is such an arresting feeling to hear this nearly 30 year old tune performed live in the U.S. It has the freshness of a first impression, but also a great distance, like dream time.

Street Life percolates with the keyboard, guitar, and sax figures coiling around each other, again with the volume level not overpowering the mix. Ferry sneers,"It makes you feel like you're losing your mind" then Lucy Wilkins' violin distortion squirms over the brisk high hat, drum, and low sax.

At the end of Ladytron, Phil cuts loose for the only time during the night, an extended solo bending strummed chords into unknown territories, ending with the guitar held above his head. More of this would be welcome. Andy has his hands full penetrating Phil's work with oboe accents.

While My Heart is Still Beating has one of several beautiful looped film projections of details from nature passing behind it. A spacious sonic experience, but heard more as an atmosphere, with instruments rising into and falling out of earshot. Percussionist Julia Thornton drives this tune.

Song for Europe opens with Colin Good's baroque piano intro, then resonates with continental nostalgia. The vocal delivery is full throated, and the band churns itself into a spiraling finale. Andy delivers wonderfully rude sax peaks here, as with the other songs from the early years. The video projection of Ferry ripples in the breeze as he sings,"Il n'y à rien a partager/ Sauf le passé." Jewel-like lights pierce the back curtain.

Out of the Blue and Both Ends Burning show why this band needs Paul
Thompson's heavy propulsive bass/tom drumming. In the first, the audience carries the two-step beat. Lucy Wilkins delivers a bravura solo, another extended instrumental display. In the second, Ferry delivers the weather report to a perspiring crowd, "Hell, who can sleep in this heat, this night." Several kitschy go-go girls work out. In both songs, the guitars were undermixed, just where Phil and Chris should be in charge.

Instead, Spedding and Julia Brown unfold a slow soulful duet in My Only Love, easily the most spontaneous and bluesy interlude of the show. Spedding hid the brutal beauty he gave to John Cale.

A tense version of In Every Dream Home a Heartache follows against a
projection where orange/ruby globules rise one by one and divide slowly upon an emerald background. The occasional bum note is thrown into the chord progression on the organ to forewarn you of a chaotic climax driven by Phil, Lucy, and Colin.

Tara is a beautiful interlude, just Andy, Lucy, and Colin. A jet passes high overhead, almost overtaking Andy's melody.

In Avalon, diminutive Yannick Etienne appears centerstage for the songbird part and is warmly greeted. She stays to join Julia Brown, and they beef up the choruses on Dance Away.

Two rows of lights angle downward for a red and orange effect in Jealous Guy. Ferry gives a fully nuanced delivery of this song, as he did throughout the night. No hoarseness, no interpretive corners cut, no high notes dropped. If he did it then, he does it now, con brio.

Editions of You closes out the set, showcasing the early Roxy strength of melding catchy hooks with over the top distortions. Wilkins and Manzanera cut loose once more. The song ends with the alluring warning "Don't let this happen to you...." The band waves and bows, Ferry making a courtly flourish, then they exit.

For Love is the Drug, the table crowd down front rises up. No mosh pit, no crowd diving, mind you, but the candelabra do wobble and the china and stemware are chipped. Next, the band's "dance" number, Do the Strand, with Andy's retro sax raspberries goading the Lido show girls in tall red plumage. The audience responds enthusiastically here, but few were familiar enough with Roxy's night gallery to visualize "La Goulue and Nijinkski/ Do the Strandski."

For Your Pleasure is a stunning finale. Tonight these lyrics seem to tease America's puzzlement over most of this band's challenging repertoire. Old fans feel the twinge of a premature swan song. More recent fans may shake their heads in confusion. "For your pleasure in our present state, part false part true like anything, we present ourselves. The words we use tumble, all over your shoulder, gravel hard and loose.... Old man, with every step I change, you watch me walk away taraa taraa....... ." Each band member exits the stage one at a time, as the electronic crickets and feedback loops rise
into the sky.
Walking back down the park path, kicking the gravel, the memory of the finale
blends into the cicadas in the nearby trees. A night to remember.

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