To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Roxy Music wrapped up its international tour in style at London’s O2 Arena on Friday night. Their flair for drama and signature glamor are clearly intact.
There are few letters and numbers as eerily convincing in pop as CPL 593H, taken from the license plate of a car Brian Ferry spotted in 1972. It wasn’t the vehicle that captivated the youngster. singer, but the beautiful woman who drove him, who inspired Re-Make/Re-Model, the first track from Roxy Music‘s debut album and Friday night opener. As bandmates and the audience sent the same random characters back and forth, they inspired instant communion.
Re-Make/Re-Model was tailor-made for the stage, with inset solos for each instrument. But it was on the sequel, Out of the Blue, that each musician’s talents shone brightest. Phil Manzanera’s guitar was electrifying, locked in a tango with Andy Mackay’s anthem-like saxophone – the first of many blissful, out-of-body moments.
Brian Ferry only interrupted the setlist once to introduce the band, letting the music speak for itself as backing vocalist Phoebe Edwards took their songs to new heights. Paul Thompson was thunderous on drums, launching into an anarchic coup for Do the Strand as Manzanera got just as intense for the final hurray.
There was hardly a dry eye in the auditorium as the band transitioned from More Than This to Avalon, arguably two of their greatest hits. But the vibe wasn’t nostalgic, as Roxy Music reaffirmed a knack for the experimental and the futuristic; songs like If There is Something could have been recorded yesterday.
The fact that the quartet is now over 70 should have given new relevance to the repeated lyrics “When we were young”. But they really looked as young as ever; a live band in its prime.
The Roxy Music frontman has always been a kind of musical Roger Moore: debonair, glamorous and ineffably British. In his signature bespoke suit, he looked particularly suave at 77, moving nimbly from keyboard to stand mic. In keeping with the band’s poignant, narrative lyrics, the singer is a storyteller of sorts: he doesn’t sing so much as he declaims, a stylish bard inviting the audience to join him as he sings with a smile. warm.
His narratives were supported by awe-inspiring visuals on the O2 screens, drawing on the surreal imagery of Roxy Music album covers: camp flamingos, pop art and pin-up. It was a heady retrospective and a dizzying reminder of the band’s timeless appeal. As Ferry embarked on the first of many encores with Love is the Drug, one thing was clear: for fans, Roxy Music remains the drug of choice.