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Roxy Music - Live CD (album) cover

LIVE

Roxy Music

 

Crossover Prog

3.98 | 29 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
3 stars I can't see any reason for a Roxy Music reunion tour besides pure mercenary nostalgia, but it's still good to hear Bryan Ferry and the boys (and girls) together again, and near peak form too. And, unlike a lot of other aging rock stars trading on past glories, this at least is a legitimate reunion, with four fifths of the acclaimed mid-70s line-up present and accounted for.

First the good news: the always underrated Paul Thompson is back behind his drum set again, and more than anything else it's his rock-steady downbeat that conjures up the quintessential spirit of classic Roxy Music. Another silver lining is the addition of Chris Spedding, hanging his leather jacket alongside Roxy mainstay Phil Manzanera in a match made in air-guitar heaven. Spedding could always be found somewhere inside the binary orbit of both Ferry's and Brian Eno's early solo careers, and on his own was a post-Punk guitar hero of the first magnitude (remember the album "Hurt By Love"?).

Speaking of Eno, no one really expected such a forward-thinking celebrity to dust off his pink feather boa for a return engagement (in a mere supporting role) of his early Roxy hermaphrodite alter ego. But Eddie Jobson is conspicuously absent as well, and the lack of his Plexiglas electric violin leaves a hole on stage too big for even the talents of his replacement Lucy Wilkins to fill. Meanwhile the Roxy Music Revolving Door Bass Player Policy is still in place. It would have been nice to hear ex-Crimson King John Wetton holding down the low end of the stage again, but newcomer Zev Katz fills the bill well enough, although I suspect he was offered the gig on the strength of his appropriately stylish name.

But what about the music? The two-CD set opens with a blistering version of "Re- Make/Re-Model", and then continues on a whirlwind 22-track tour of the band's back catalogue, spliced seamlessly together from shows all around the world. There aren't many unexpected choices in the set list, but fans will be relieved to find the majority of songs lifted from their first three influential albums (although the single best represented LP is, of course, their popular 1982 studio swan-song "Avalon").

The real surprises are the stunning extended versions of two otherwise routine Roxy ballads: "While My Heart is Still Beating" and "My Only Love" (off the later "Avalon" and "Flesh & Blood" albums, respectively). The former allows Manzanera a long, nervous, effects-filled solo in a very Fripp-like mood, and the latter gives Spedding a turn in the spotlight, with his slow, emotional guitar solo building into one of the more ecstatic musical climaxes since Pink Floyd's "The Great Gig in the Sky".

Later, after a likewise superb "Mother of Pearl" (with both guitarists deliciously trading licks under Ferry's world-weary party animal croon), the show more or less devolves into a slick, predictable parade of greatest hits: "Dance Away", "Jealous Guy", "Love is the Drug" and so forth, all played with spirit but hardly straying from the studio originals by as much as a single note.

And that's a problem. There's a certain lack of spontaneity to the project, with nothing to upset the delicate clockwork timing of the newly re-tuned Roxy Machine. Heck, even Eno's little VCS3 synthesizer squirts at the fade-out of "Re-Make/Re-Model" are reproduced (pre-recorded?) verbatim, some thirty years after adorning the band's self- titled 1972 debut.

Couldn't they have taken a few more liberties with such well-worn, already familiar material? In my dusty vinyl library is a bootleg from the 1975 "Siren" tour, and during the thumbnail solo spots at the end of "Re/Make" you can hear micro-samples of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" (Manzanera), Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" (Mackay), "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (Ferry, who covered the golden oldie on his second solo album), and something from Jobson sounding like a pastiche of "Three Blind Mice".

I guess the new band was too hard at work to risk having a little fun, unlike in the old days, when the vulgar overkill of Antony Price's outrageous wardrobe designs were all the rage. On the other hand, song for song these new versions all sound better than the originals, if only because the live production is so sharp and the performances so well-rehearsed. If not for the applause you might never even guess it was a concert recording.

In its entirety the twin CD is a much stronger valedictory than the somewhat mechanical 1990 live set "Heart Still Beating". The encore alone is almost worth the near-two decade wait for another tour: a suitably ghostly reading of the "For Your Pleasure" title track, maybe the high water mark of early Roxy Music weirdness. As the hypnotic coda slowly fades into the ether (with, take note, the audience edited out altogether), we're left with what may be the perfect farewell to Brian Ferry and company...until the next tour, of course, or better yet (cross your fingers) a new reunion, this time in the recording studio.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |

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