BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Reunited for a 50th Anniversary tour and performing in San Francisco for the first time since a pair of 1972 dates at Winterland, Roxy Music left no doubt that their British flair still transcends universal borders during their set at Chase Center Monday night.
Forty years after their eighth and final studio album Avalon achieved platinum status in 1982, the tour finds lead singer and primary songwriter Bryan Ferry along with guitarist Phil Manzanera, saxophonist Andy Mackay and drummer Paul Thompson taking their act on the road for the first time since their induction into the Rock & Roll of Fame in 2019.
While Ferry has gone on to become equally well known for his solo successes, his band mates have mostly remained under the radar with the exception of the departed multi talented Brian Eno, who’s gone on to a successful career as both a solo artist and collaborator with the likes of David Bowie, U2, Coldplay and David Byrne.
Manzanera, 71, co-produced David Gilmour’s On an Island album in 2006 and played in Gilmour’s touring band in addition to continuing to produce quality art rock and jazz fusion material among other genre’s. A highly sought session musician, the 76-year old Mackay has performed with the likes of Duran Duran, Mott the Hoople, John Mellencamp and Paul McCartney to name a few.
Arriving for the show on his 77th birthday, the dapper Ferry has always been the face of the band, but throughout the evening the musicianship of the entire group was impeccable. Supported by an additional seven musicians plus three backup singers, the core trio of Ferry, Manzanera and Mackay commanded most of the attention, but there was plenty to go around.
Performing 17 songs from seven of their eight studio albums during an all too brief 95 minute set, Roxy capitalized on Chase Center’s pristine acoustics to take the audience on a trip down memory lane. Opening with “Re-Make/Re-Model” from their self titled 1972 debut album with Ferry taking center stage behind an electric Nord keyboard, little time was wasted before showcasing Mackay’s sweet sounding sax expertise as large video monitors behind the stage flashed early images of the band with much longer hair and glam make-up.
A few songs later, the extended guitar and sax jams on the funky and frenetic “Ladytron” from the same album helped set it apart from some of it’s more mellow predecessors. “Oh Yeah,” from 1980’s Flesh + Blood was a perfect song to match with the colorful imagery of bygone days at the drive-in with its nostalgic lyrics “Driving you home from a movie show/So in tune to the sounds in my car/There’s a band playing on the radio.”
The eerie intro to “In Every Dream Home a Heartache,” a tawdry tale about about sex with a blow-up doll, led to the inevitable crescendo at its conclusion that saw Ferry depart the stage as the beautiful keyboard instrumental “Tara” from 1982’s swan song “Avalon” served as a brief interlude before the wispy love song “My Only Love.”
About an hour into the show but still clearly saving their best for last, it was the final third of Roxy’s setlist which provided a sizable chunk of their most recognizable material. The fan favorite “Dance Away” which led into the melodic “More Than This” and “Avalon” were both well received and emblematic of the brief barely three minute long tracks that established Roxy’s hit machine.
Perhaps their single most famous composition, “Love Is The Drug” from 1975’s Siren, had the crowd fully engaged, most happily singing along to the uptempo dance friendly beat. Many have confused it with a Talking Heads song, but it was released a full two years before the Heads had even debuted. Closing without an encore, Roxy Music finished the show with screaming keyboards featured on “Editions of You” and the upbeat jazzy “Do The Strand,” both from their second album, 1973’s For Your Pleasure , by which time a full blown house party had broken out at Chase Center.
While the brevity of the 95 minute length of the show may have been lacking considering the quality of the Roxy Music’s deep catalog, every moment was still a pleasure inducing experience considering the infrequency of seeing the band live, along with their impeccable skill sets. We’d all be fortunate if the nostalgia of the 50th Anniversary reunion somehow served as an inspiration for the group to spend more time on the road, or perhaps even create some new material.
Roxy Music concludes their 50th Anniversary tour Wednesday night with a stop at The Forum in Inglewood.