wed 11/12/2019

Roxy Music, O2 Arena | reviews, news & interviews

Roxy Music, O2 Arena

Roxy Music, O2 Arena

Two models of the band battle it out at the same show

Roxy Music, the front line (from left): Phil Manzanera, Bryan Ferry and Andy Mackay

Two Roxy Musics took to the stage at the O2. One the art-rock retro-futurist outfit that redefined Seventies pop from 1971 to 1976, the other the airbrushed high-sheen machine of 1979 to 1982. They weren’t a comfortable fit, but this by turns perplexing and wonderful show offered more than enough evidence for what a weird, inspirational and wilful band Roxy Music were and are.

The final concert on the seven-date For Your Pleasure tour, this first jaunt round the UK in over 10 years coincided with the band’s 40th anniversary. Taking its billing from the band’s second album was telling – it was their last with founder member Brian Eno and the point at which their marriage of music and style became embedded in British pop culture. Joining Bryan Ferry at the O2 Arena were fellow Roxy originals Andrew Mackay on oboe and sax, drummer Paul Thompson and guitarist Phil Manzanera (OK, he wasn't there right at the start, but he was with the band from their first record). But it didn’t stop with the quartet. Three female backing singers were bulked out by a pair of dancers and two keyboard players – one of whom doubled on sax – a percussionist who shadowed Thompson’s parts and another guitarist. Only one bassist though. Pretty much another full band was up there.

Ferry whistled 'Jealous Guy' with magnificent chutzpah

A thuddy, bass-heavy mix didn’t initially offer any favours. After walking on to “India”, from 1982’s Avalon, they ran through that album's “The Main Thing”. Choosing unpredictable openers set the tone: of the 23-song set, eight songs were post-1979, the remainder drawn from the first five albums. Next up were Stranded’s “Street Life” and second single “Pyjamarama”, after which the sound was sorted out.

Juxtaposing the two periods of the band’s career was challenging, but even more so were some perplexing choices. Avalon's “To Turn You On” is pretty thin, and hearing it before a ripping “Same Old Scene” rendered it even more so. But the surprises from the early Roxy canon thrilled. Country Life’s “Prairie Rose” might not be a classic, but it sounded pretty damn great. Ditto for Stranded's “Amazona”. For Your Pleasure’s creepy “In Every Dreamhome a Heartache” shivered with menace, while the mid-section of “If There is Something" was extraordinary - Mackay and Manzanera’s sonic drift was spectral. Yet Mackay’s sax solo on the cover of Neil Young’s "Like a Hurricane" could have graced the soundtrack of an Eighties Hollywood cop film. His oboe on Avalon’s “Tara” had too much late-night Don Johnson about it, while guest guitarist Oliver Thompson’s plank-spanking close to Flesh and Blood’s "My Only Love" contrasted starkly with Manzanera's angular unpredictability.

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Roxy Music perform "Virginia Plain" on Top of the Pops in 1972

Ferry frustrated too. Spending over half the set parked behind a keyboard halfway back was democratic – saying the show is about the band, not me – but it would’ve been nice to see more of him. Still, Mackay got a chance to take centre stage. Back on his feet, Ferry whistled “Jealous Guy” with magnificent chutzpah. Animated during the home straight of “Virginia Plain”, “Love is the Drug”, “Editions of You" and "Do the Strand", he engaged with the audience for the first time. “For Your Pleasure” itself was the atmospheric closer. There was no encore.

Wilful and perplexing, clichéd yet unpredictable. That was last night’s Roxy Music, two bands at once. And no, Eno wasn’t missed.

 

Spending over half the set parked behind a keyboard halfway back was democratic, but it would’ve been nice to see more of Ferry

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Comments

First visit to O2, second Roxy Music concert and fourth to see and hear the ultra-smooth Mr Ferry. Interesting set with strong musicianship. Sound balance was poor at times with Mr Ferry's lyrics inaudible over an over-based accompaniment. To me this only came right with Avalon. Was it the O2 acoustic I wonder or was the sound engineer distracted by the person behind him, clearly not part of the technical team (a relative perhaps) weirdly waving his arms throughout the concert. Terrific graphics and subtle lighting but overall it was the music that mattered. This was apparent in the almost casual start to the evening’s proceedings, the brief ‘Thanks’ at the end of each piece with no unnecessary chat or attempt to engage the audience which might get in the way of the notes.

Having read the reviews for earlier concerts I was anticipating a mixed bunch of songs and a mixed performance at the O2. A set list chosen by the band (I assume) as representing their favourites, with little compromise to a younger audience, was absolutely superb and very brave. Coming from the vinyl era, when you listened to the whole record from start to finish, the choice of songs didn't phase me - I could sing along to all of them. But I did feel for the youngsters sitting near me, who lost interest very quickly and disappeared half way through (to the bar I suspect). They missed some wonderful sections with mournful oboe, haunting guitar and atmosheric piano solos. They missed a weird and wonderful set, complimented by a very convincing vocal performance by Mr. Ferry. They missed the point.

I was at the concert and seemed to be the only who shouted/sang 'but you blew my mind' at the the end of In Every Dreamhome..! Most of the people around me didn't know the early stuff and I didn't know the post-Avalon stuff but I clearly got the better deal. Not as good as the Empire Pool (from memory) but still a fantastic concert.

Massive fan of Roxy and had been looking forward to this for many months but it was not a perfect, feel good night. The O2 acoustics to begin with were terrible with just a steady thud drowning out the finer musical notes and vocals. The concert definitely felt like there were two sections. Out of 23 numbers the first 15 seemed extremely melancholic with few of the audience getting out of their seats. Track 15 The Same Old Scene set the O2 alive and at the end of it Ferry commented "Oh there you are". The remainder of the concert was much more upbeat. I wish they had played Mother of Pearl, Both Ends Burning, and a few more of their 'radio hits'. Having said that would I pay £60 to see them play again, yes, but definitely not at the O2.

Its a near sellout despite the high ticket prices of £75 and £50.There are a dozen in the band inc three backing singers and two more dancers that pop on and off during the show.A big screen showing a mix of live footage and images.On stage for 1 hour 50 mins.Bryan Ferry looks totally super suave in a suit and tie.Gems at the start inc "Street Life" and "Pyjamarama" and "In Every Dream Home A Heartache".Also a cover of "Like A Hurricane".It went a bit average in the middle as the songs were not suitable for a big arena and the moody lighting did not help.Not sure why he had to spend so much time behind the piano. Then it got better again "Same Old Scene","Avalon","Jealous Guy" and mega versions of "Virginia Plain","Love Is The Drug" and "Do The Strand" were all great. In the same block as me right of stage were Jonathan Ross with David Walliams.They should have played Hammersmith Apollo as i would not fancy being up in Level 4 for this show. www.raysgigs.com

Genial!!!!!! Bryan Ferry beau comme un dieu. Ses musiciens et choristes en parfait accord. Les danseuses pleine d energie. Merci ROXY MUSIC pour ce moment magique.

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