Roxy Music may not have ever quite attained the “household name” status of bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, but the influence they’ve had over their five decade history is undeniable. From their 1972 self-titled debut to their platinum-selling swan song Avalon a decade later, the band hewed their own singular path through art rock, glam, and pop, with a focus on fashion and an angular sound that portended, amongst other things, the entire 80s new wave. Though they haven’t recorded since – their sole attempt in 2010 ended up turning into singer Bryan Ferry’s thirteenth solo album, Olympia – the core of the group (Ferry, Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay, and Paul Thompson) have reunited several times over the years to tour in honor of their legacy. Their latest tour, more than a decade after their last, celebrates the band’s 50th anniversary, and it came to Washington, DC’s Capital One Arena this past Friday night.
The band never had quite the level of success in America that they saw at home in the UK and in Europe, but from the enthusiasm of the crowd that gathered in the arena it was clear that they still have many fans here. The excitement in the air was palpable from the start of the show with the the opening track of their first album, “Re-Make/Re-Model,” and it never let up through the band’s twenty song set. And perhaps because they had so few “hits” on this side of the pond, deeper cuts like “Out of the Blue” and “My Only Love” were met with nearly as much elation as the bigger songs like “More Than This” or “Love Is the Drug.”
At the center of the stage was, of course, the master of cool himself, Bryan Ferry. His voice has aged over the years, and those going to see this tour would do well to keep some tempered expectations, realizing that he’s not the 27-year-old who recorded “Editions of You” in 1973 anymore. But despite a few moments where he seemed to struggle a bit with some of the higher notes, the truth is that he sounded just fine for most of the time. He had to take it down an octave in places, but the overall feeling was still very much there. And he still knows how to work the stage, his sheer presence keeping him always in focus despite the eleven-piece band surrounding him. With backing vocalists Fonzi Thornton and Senab Adekunle there to help with a bit of the heavy lifting, he was more than capable of carrying the show.
But of course the difference between this and a typical Ferry solo show (which always features a selection of Roxy tracks) is the addition of the other Roxy members. Guitarist Phil Manzanera in particular was on fire, turning out some scorching solos in tracks like “In Every Dream Home a Heartache.” It was sometimes hard to tell which saxophone parts were being played by Andy Mackay and which were being played by Jorja Chalmers (which, if nothing else, showed the strong interplay between the two of them), but when Chalmers stepped away he turned out some amazing sounds that showed he definitely still has it (most notably in an extended and amped-up version of the instrumental “Tara,” which was a highlight of the night and gave him a chance to particularly shine). Paul Thompson is, as always, a master of the drum kit, and though he had some assistance from percussionist Nathan ‘Tugg’ Curran, he never missed a beat.
Rounding out the band were bassist Neil Jason, keyboardists Christian Gulino and Chloe Beth Smith, and guitarist Tom Vanstiphout.
Let’s face it, with a decade between tours, chances are this may be the final opportunity to see this particular set of legends playing together. As a likely last victory lap by a band who basically defined several genres over the course of a relatively short active career, this show is one not to miss. If the tour is coming anywhere near you, you would do well to grab a ticket now and catch them one last time (or for the first time, and check them off your bucket list!). You won’t regret it.
Opening the show was one musician who has certainly felt the band’s powerful influence, Grammy Award-winning artist St. Vincent. Annie Clark released her latest album, Daddy’s Home, last year to great acclaim, but her ten song set drew from across her growing discography to include tracks like “Birth In Reverse,” “Los Ageless,” and “Cheerleader.” It was easy to tell how thrilled she was to be there, opening for a band who meant so much to her. Unfortunately, possibly due to the generation gap and the associated unfamiliarity, a large portion of the audience filtered into the venue after her set was already well underway – if you’re going to an upcoming show, do yourself a favor and make sure that you get there early enough to catch her.
Roxy Music setlist
Re-Make/Re-Model Out of the Blue The Bogus Man Ladytron While My Heart Is Still Bleeding Oh Yeah If There Is Something In Every Dream Home a Heartache Tara To Turn You On
The Main Thing Dance Away Same Old Scene My Only Love More Than This Avalon Love Is the Drug Editions of You Do the Strand Jealous Guy