More Mascot Than Crooner-The Toronto Star - Mon 16th Jul

More Mascot Than Crooner-The Toronto Star
16 July 2001

Bryan Ferry frontman for Roxy Music tour
Vit Wagner

If the Roxy Music reunion tour seems bent on proving anything, it is that there was more to the legendary '70s art rock band than its dashing frontman, Bryan Ferry. And the point is not entirely well taken.
Roxy Music, having reunited after 18 years on the shelf, launched the North American leg of a global jaunt last night at the Air Canada Centre with a furiously paced but unbalanced set that more often cast Ferry in the role of mascot than crooner.
At 55, the singer has retained much of his suave, rakish appearance. After an opening stint on the piano, he strode to the front of the stage, dressed from tousled-haired head to toe in black leather. He changed jackets as the evening wore on, but whatever he wore he always looked like someone born to live out his life in a martini bar.

The voice is another matter. It would be difficult to testify to the status of Ferry's pipes on the basis of one performance, particularly when his voice sounded undermixed for much of the show.

At its best, Ferry's voice is a contradictory instrument, the jerky cadences of his singing playing against the smoothness of his manner and appearance. On this occasion, however, he was simply drowned out by the big sound around him, the lyrics barely audible above the din on such early numbers as "Street Life" and "Out Of The Blue."

Ferry was at his most eloquent and forward on the rendition of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy," which landed near the end of the 75-minute set. It was also the tune that provoked the biggest response from the largely enthusiastic crowd, bringing the entire house to its feet.

More often, Ferry seemed content to cheer the efforts of the band, including guitarist Phil Manzanera, sax man Andy Mackay and drummer Paul Thompson, all of whom also appeared on Roxy Music's eponymous, 1971 debut album.
Manzanera was accorded several soloing opportunities. But in the prevailing spirit of generosity, so was second guitarist Chris Spedding, who stepped to the fore on "My Only Love."

Mackay let loose on a number of occasions, at one point delivering an instrumental interlude with accompaniment from violinist Lucy Wilkins, who also handled the synthesizer duties. To one extent or another, keyboardist Colin Good, bassist Zev Katz and backing vocalist Sarah Brown, were given ample opportunity to strut their considerable stuff.

Brown did justice to the seductive background cooing on "Avalon." The song, like much of the show, was played before an ever-shifting visual backdrop, in this case a rippled water effect that looked remarkably similar to an effect recently employed by Depeche Mode - drops hitting a placid pool apparently being this year's visual cliché.

More prominent yet was the tenacious dexterity of Julia Thornton, who filled in Thompson's drum work with a persistent devotion to the percussion instruments arrayed in front of her.

It was possible to imagine, at times, that her attention to the cowbell was as vital to the success of Roxy Music's resurrection as the audibility of its singer.

No one expects to hear all or even most of the words at a rock show. But then it isn't every night that one goes to a rock show expecting to hear Bryan Ferry. Not as the frontman for Roxy Music, in any event.

This reunion has many ingredients for success.

What it needs is that frozen moment in time, with Ferry standing at the microphone, his face glistening with sweat as he makes every syllable count.

Previous Article | Next Article