It never crossed my mind that I would have the chance to hear two live performances of the song “Love is the Drug” in less than a week – the first time by Grace Jones, and the second time by the original artist, Roxy Music. This nevertheless happened on Sunday and Wednesday nights as I seem to be on a “checking with the ‘80s icons” roll. Roxy Music easily predates the ‘80s, but I am much more familiar with “Avalon” (released in 1982) than with “For your Pleasure” (released in 1973). However, there was a bit of everything on Wednesday night, the UK art rock band elegantly browsed their career, starting with the most ancient material, while they ended up playing 18 songs from 7 out of their 8 studio albums.
It was the final night of their first American tour since 2003, a 10-date arena tour to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Roxy Music record, which began on September 7 in Toronto. In 2011, the band played a 7-date “For Your Pleasure” tour in the UK to celebrate their 40th anniversary and Phil Manzanera declared to Rolling Stone in 2014 that they would probably not perform together again: “I don’t think we’re going to do any more shows. I think our job is done. When we stopped touring in 2011, Andy [Mackay] and I looked at each other and said, ‘Our job is done here.’” It turns out they were not done yet.
St Vincent opened the show and she and her wonderful band did a shorter version of the show I saw last year at the Hollywood Bowl in support of her album “Daddy’s Home.” At the time, I had truly enjoyed her show, and it seemed logical that she would open for Roxy Music with an album inspired by the sound of the ‘70s. Drawing from the “Daddy’s Home” repertoire, but also from “MASSEDUCTION” and her older catalog, she brought a renewed energy to her songs with a lot of shredded guitars, and even epic battles with guitarist Jason Falkner and bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen. During “New York,” she charmed the crowd and walked through the rows of the floor, while everyone was chanting “Happy Birthday,” it was effectively her birthday. She has been the opener for Roxy Music’s entire tour, and the retro glam flavor of her songs as well as the inventiveness she brought to the music made her a great choice for the night.
For Roxy Music fans, it was certainly a real treat to see Bryan Ferry reunited with guitarist Phil Manzanera, saxophonist Andy Mackay, and drummer Paul Thompson, although Brian Eno, who left Roxy Music after its second album, hasn’t been part of these reunion tours at all. The stage was packed with people, as I counted 13 members altogether including an additional drummer and 3 backup singers. Roxy Music had decided to come back with a bang, and while elegantly scanning their large catalog, they certainly managed to impress the Forum audience. During “In Every Dream Home a Heartache,” just when the song transforms and explodes into powerful chaos, the pounding on the drums was so loud and sudden that the entire public flinched in surprise. The music of the first albums (they opened the show with “Re-Make/Re-Model”) sounded dynamic, often meandrous with complex instrumentation, various touches of experimentation, and the notable addition of Andy Mackay’s sax solos. It was a full climatic sound with many layers and a moment to shine for each one of them: from the incredible guitar solos of “Out of the Blue,” to the creepy noir sax of “The Bogus Man,” to the racing explosive cacophony of “Ladytron,” that easily surpassed its version on wax.
They played in front of giant screens constantly creating a collage of blurred or distorted images which provided an abstract and colorful décor to most of the songs. However, the common thread for all the songs was unavoidably Bryan Ferry’s suave voice, which, I must admit, sounded a bit weaker and much more vulnerable than I expected… however, he is 77. If we are not talking about the Rolling Stones’ insane physical energy – Mick Jagger is a freak of nature – Ferry can still dance with grace and smoothly gyrate during sax solos. Somewhat, his husky voice, beautifully completed by the female backup vocalists – especially during the heavenly “Avalon” – gave the show an even more human dimension. The instrumental ”Tara” performed mid-show with saxophone, keys, and guitar may have been a breather for him, but it was his only pause in 95 minutes.
They kept the hits for the second part – or at least the most well-known songs in the US – like the upbeat “Dance Away,” the soothing “More Than This,” the sax-up and lush “Avalon” and its virtuosic backup vocals – people were ecstatic after this one – or the soaring rhythmic dance of “Love Is the Drug.” The two last songs could have been an encore although I didn’t see any of them leave the stage, but heard a thunder of applause between each song. Despite the average age of the crowd (at the very least +50-60), plenty of people were on their feet and dancing during “Do the Strand.”
None of Roxy Music’s albums ever charted big in the US, but last night’s final standing ovation is certainly a testimony of the enduring appeal of a band whose sound has echoed through decades of pop history. The large smiles on the faces of Ferry, Manzanera, Mackay, and Thompson were telling the entire story.
On a side note, I had almost forgotten how much I hate the Forum (now rebranded the Kia Forum). I was expecting to see less movement due to the age of this specific population, but I couldn’t have been more wrong! Have we really become this restless species, always on the move and unable to sit for more than a few minutes without having the pressuring desire to grab a drink, a piece of food, or who knows what? Not only half of the forum arrived at their seat late – they missed Annie Clark’s set – but some people never seemed to sit down for very long. I don’t think I counted a minute without a person around me getting up to go somewhere. Can’t these people stay home and stream a concert on their tv? They will not tell the difference and will have all the commodities without annoying the hell of people who can still concentrate on the music.
India (Opening instrumental song before the band came on stage)
Out of the Blue
The Bogus Man
The Main Thing
While My Heart Is Still Beating
If There Is Something
In Every Dream Home a Heartache
My Only Love
To Turn You On
More Than This
Love Is the Drug
Editions of You
Do the Strand
the same sentimental vintage formula
the incomparable daughter of Lagos
I was traveling around and sharing my story in churches
Stella Rose has already played packed-out clubs
“The Beast Inside” Red Carpet Industry Screening, Friday, December 2nd 2022 at Fine Arts Theatre, Beverly Hills Pictorial
Here are red carpet pictures from last Friday…
The attack of Christmas lays waste to everyone
a mini-meet of first rate rap-dance performers