Roxy Music at O2 Arena, London (7 Feb '11)
Smart, suave, sophisticated – that’s enough about me....I’m here to review the London leg of Roxy Music’s first UK tour in a decade.
Roxy Music are easily one of the UK’s most influential bands - with the likes of Pulp, Suede, Duran Duran, The Smiths and Franz Ferdinand all owing elements of their sound to the art rock group. In the Brian Eno years in particular, they created strange sonic landscapes which explored the boundaries of music yet significantly retained a strong degree of pop sensibility.
They were not only prepared to wear their pretentions, but explore them fully, seeing decadence as a badge of honour. Watching them perform 'Ladytron' on the BBC’s 'Old Grey Whistle Test', it still feels like you’re watching the future of music. Therefore, it was with some degree of excitement that I was awaiting their performance at the O2 Arena.
This reviewer couldn’t help allow a broad smile to appear as the band announced their arrival with gurgling synths of 'The Main Thing'. When it was followed by 'Street Life', it created the expectation this would be run through the greatest hits. How wrong this was, as the band proceeded to spend much of the next hour running through some of their more challenging album tracks.
I couldn’t help share in the disappointment among the majority of the audience, which wasn’t helped by Bryan Ferry’s lack of interaction with the crowd. With a couple of exceptions - the pay-off of 'In Every Dream Home A Heartache' remains as exhilarating and disturbing as ever, while Phil Manzanera brought new funkiness to 'Amazona' - many of these tracks meandered aimlessly, broken only by a cover of Neil Young’s 'Like A Hurricane', with Andy Mackay’s iconic reedmanship bringing a new dimension to the classic.
The audience were finally brought out of their slumber with the classic 'Same Old Scene', which marked Ferry’s first interaction with the crowd as the band proceeded to run through their some of their greatest hits. The swooning 'Avalon', 'Love Is The Drug', 'Editions Of You' and their signature song 'Virginia Plain' swiftly followed.
The concert reflected the band’s difficulty in getting the balance right between their more experimental years and their commercial zenith. Unfortunately, Roxy Music had misjudged their audience with their setlist – perhaps if they had broken up more of the album tracks with their hits, it may well have worked.
It’s a shame that the aforementioned 'Ladytron', 'The Thrill Of It All', 'Both Ends Burning', 'More Than This' and 'Re-Make/Re-Model' missed out to weaker material like 'Tara' and 'Just Like You'. As a result, we had a gig of two halves but the rousing finale at least sent the crowd home happy.
Details of the Roxy Music touring schedule are available at roxymusic.co.uk.