Skip to content

Fifty years later

Bryan Ferry was kind enough to invite me to contribute the introductory essay to the programme for Roxy Music’s 50th anniversary concerts in North America and the UK, so I went along to the O2 last night to see the closing date of the tour and to witness what might, I suppose, have been their final performance together. I don’t like arena shows, but once the sound had settled down it was possible to enjoy what the four members who played on the debut album in 1972 — Ferry, Andy Mackay, Paul Thompson and Phil Manzanera — and their six auxiliary musicians and three backing singers were up to. And of course there was that funny bitter-sweet feeling you get while watching something you first saw in a basement with a few dozen other people half a century ago scaled up to world-conquering proportions in its ultimate iteration. In the essay I wrote about the inevitability of the process by which what had begun as an experiment would become a performance, but hints of the original art-school excitement and uncertainty managed to survive even today’s production values and resources, and the lighting and the back-projections — endless highways for “Oh Yeah”, Warhol images for “Editions of You” — made it beautiful to watch. The show began with reminders of the slightly gawky early stuff (“Re-make/Re-model”, “Ladytron”) and finished with full-throttle favourites (“Love Is the Drug”, “Virginia Plain”) but in between came a long passage in which the pace slowed to a resting heartbeat as luxuriant textures and romantic descending patterns took over. Introduced by the wordless “Tara”, the sequence of “The Main Thing”, “My Only Love”, “To Turn You On”, “Dance Away”, “More Than This” and “Avalon” swept elegantly by in one long candlelit swoon. Not a bad envoi, if that’s what it was.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. simon surtees #

    I saw Bryan Ferry live twice, once at a half full Wembley indoors venue and at a packed BST where he was the support to “La Streisand”. What I loved was, as you perceived, was the “art” influence was always in the background and in the performance and the design and that took the “pop”:element to a new level. A great live performer. And, of course, we must never forget the influence of Brian ENO. Not the same without him.

    October 15, 2022
  2. Semi-envious – couldn’t get a ticket. But the sky-high ticket prices to view the band from a mile away take the joy out of these gigs anyway. Which is a real shame, I think.

    October 15, 2022
  3. Diana #

    Their music somehow sounds better now than it did originally. I wonder why.

    October 15, 2022
  4. Martin H #

    What a lovely valediction! I remember well your previewing Roxy Music in the MM and the excitement generated. I was fortunate enough to meet and interview Bryan Ferry (and Eno) that year and have followed and enjoyed their respective work ever since.

    October 15, 2022
  5. Robert Hathaway #

    Great that you have been able to bookend one of the best groups to ever come out of UK with perhaps one of its greatest lyricist.

    October 15, 2022
  6. Stephanie Poe McCook #

    Your penultimate paragraph shimmers… My favorite Roxy era summed up beautifully.

    October 15, 2022
  7. Caroline #

    So sorry to miss you – judging by your picture we were in the block in front of you. The after show party was like the seventh circle of hell

    October 15, 2022

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: