Roxy Music’s ‘Tight and Compelling’ Reunion Comes to L.A.—Review

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Roxy Music long, long ago (Photo: Brian Cooke via Live Nation)

In the concert world, so-called “legacy” bands have become big business. Dozens of classic rock bands that haven’t set foot inside a recording studio in two or three decades easily sell out major arenas, and even though their members are now in their 60s and 70s, most of them sound pretty damn good. Live performances have replaced record sales as a musician’s primary income stream, and these old rock bands that go out on the road year after year almost can’t help but sound good. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect.

Roxy Music, whose six-week 50th anniversary tour includes just 13 arena shows, 10 of them in North America, is something of an anomaly. The band’s last studio album, the majestic Avalon, came out in 1982, and the group called it quits a year later after a final tour. Lead singer-songwriter Bryan Ferry subsequently embarked on a long and very successful solo career, with Roxy Music relegated to just a handful of reunion tours—and one final studio album, which was ultimately scrapped—over the ensuing 38 years.

Bryan Ferry at the Forum, 2022 (Photo from the Forum’s Facebook page{

Prior to this year’s brief tour, the last time the four core members of Roxy Music—Ferry, guitarist Phil Manzanera, saxophonist Andy Mackay and drummer Paul Thompson—had played together was 2011.

And yet the band’s September 28 show at The Forum in Los Angeles, stop No. 10 (and final North American concert) on a tour that concludes October 14 in London, was such a tight and compelling performance that this attendee’s first thought after the show was, “I sure hope they get one more live album out of this.”

In a nod to the momentousness of a 50th anniversary tour, Roxy Music assembled a remarkable set consisting of 18 songs drawn fairly evenly from their eight studio albums, a body of work released during the first 10 of those 50 years, between 1972 and 1982.

As an opener, the band made the wise choice of selecting “Re-Make/Re-Model,” which also happened to be the opening cut on its eponymous debut LP, issued in June 1972. An upbeat musical melting pot that found Ferry doubling on vocals and keyboards, the song got things off to a raucous start, as everyone in the band got the chance to solo and the crowd jumped to its feet and relentlessly spilled out into the aisles as the ushers played a losing “Whack-A-Mole”-like game of trying to keep everyone in their seats.

Phil Manzanera at the Forum (Photo from the Forum’s Facebook page)

Next came the gorgeous “Out of the Blue,” from Roxy Music’s fourth album, Country Life, issued in November 1974. There had been reports that Ferry was experiencing some voice problems earlier in the tour, but on this night his elegant warbling was in fine form, only faltering a bit toward the end of the show. On “Out of the Blue” his vocal performance was positively majestic, brimming with the stylish sensuality that has become his trademark.

The band showcased more of its earlier work with “The Bogus Man,” off album No. 2, and the artsy debut-LP masterpiece “Ladytron,” which had been something of a showpiece for Brian Eno’s keyboard wizardry. (Eno quit the band after its second album, reportedly due to conflicts with Ferry over leadership.)

A high point came with “Oh Yeah,” off May 1980’s Flesh and Blood LP, one of Roxy Music’s most emotional songs, about a man reminiscing about his drives with his girl to a “movie show” and the song on the radio they considered their own—and which now, years later, brings him to tears as he drives on alone: “It’s some time since we said goodbye/And now we lead our separate lives/But where am I, where can I go?”

Then, two more early songs, first “If There Is Something,’ off LP No. 1, and then “In Every Dream Home a Heartache,” off the band’s second album, 1973’s For Your Pleasure. The highlight, here, was an absolutely astounding manic guitar solo by Manzanera. Given the morphing of Roxy Music’s sound toward dance and, ultimately, the symphonic synth-pop of the band’s final studio LP, May 1982’s Avalon, one tends to forget just what a talented guitar player Manzanera is, and how crucial Mackay’s sax (and, on occasion, oboe) was to Roxy Music’s initial experimental, artsy wall of sound.

Watch “In Every Dream Home, A Heartache” from Roxy’s San Francisco show

This was driven home once more during the band’s final two songs, “Editions of You” and the infectious “Do the Strand,” both from For Your Pleasure. It was a fitting and full-circle end to the nearly two-hour-long show, coming after a trio of songs from the later Roxy period: the disco-ish “Dance Away,” followed by the breezy, atmospherically melodic “More Than This” and “Avalon” from their final vinyl LP (no CDs when Roxy Music cut its swan song). Ironically, it was on these two songs that Ferry’s voice was at its weakest, falling almost into a whisper.

Don’t ask what the tickets for this show cost me, but rest assured that it was money well spent.

Related: Listings for 100s of classic rock tours

Watch the band perform “Love is the Drug” at the Forum

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  1. JCB
    #1 JCB 5 October, 2022, 09:16

    They are one of the greatest live bands ever. No one sings like Bryan. Saw Bryan and his solo band at the Ryman in 2017 and the Saenger in New Orleans in 2019, he still has it big time. Go see this tour if you can. Now is your chance.

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