The Roxy Music 50th anniversary tour sounded like a dream. The legendary influential glam rock band led by singer and songwriter Bryan Ferry hadn’t toured together since 2012. The gang, including Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera, and Paul Thompson, finally joined forces again and hit the road for a tour that lived up to its dreamiest potential.
For anyone not in The Roxy Music party, the English band released its self-titled debut album on June 16th, 1972. It introduced a funky new voice and sound. The band once featured Brian Eno and gained popularity in the U.K., but it wasn’t until their final album and masterpiece Avalon that the band caught on in the United States and elsewhere.
Ferry always wanted to write music that reached the soul. Fifty years later, Roxy Music still works its magic on a crowd who’ve only grown more passionate over the years. While there is no caboose in every seat, Roxy Music and its fans pack the house with vitality and passion that continues to define the band.
Everything starts right on this tour when St. Vincent opens for the band. She’s a musician with a range and artistic curiosity similar to the headliner. She’s funk, rock, and pop and produces music that doesn’t always fit tidy in a box. If any of the more, let’s say, elderly attendees were unfamiliar with her work, they left with a newfound appreciation of Annie Clark and her rocking band.
As a St. Vincent fan, she’s always a thrill to watch on stage. Whether it’s a whole set or an opening act, it doesn’t matter; she delivers. She was spot on for the tour, given her most recent album, the electrifying glam rock throwback Daddy’s Home feels right at home in the world of Roxy Music. The only bummer is she doesn’t play “Live in the Dream,” but she does get the party started. St. Vincent and her band don’t leave a foot of the stage untouched by dancing shoes.
When Roxy Music takes the stage, they do not mess around. They open with the tranquil “India” before pumping up the energy with “Re-Make/Re-Model” and a personal favorite, “Out of the Blue.” “The Bogus Man” is a perfect cleanup hitter as tune number four. It is a playful and haunting number accompanied by suitably low-key nightmarish imagery. With the first four songs alone, Roxy Music reminds the audience of why they fell in love with the band in the first place.
The band’s music is often surreal but always accessible. When “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” plays, you can hear a pin drop. With Ferry’s haunting voice and the band’s sinister instrumentals, it’s a slow burn of a song that explodes. It’s always a highlight when Ferry sings that song, and his band rips and roars through the end of it when Ferry briefly leaves the stage and lets his fellow bandmates take the limelight.
When Ferry is front and center, pardon my language, he is one suave motherfucker. With a warm smile that beams with appreciation, he moves and croons with grace and a classiness that’s defined him since his days as a fashion icon. Yes, he’s still slick, but there’s a beating heart to the slickness of it all. Ferry is a frontman who can remain seated and still project charisma.
Every artist’s voice changes. It grows, evolves, and sometimes even alters the meaning of the songs. With Ferry, there’s a new beauty there. The lead singer’s voice now brings unique, compelling qualities to old songs about heartache, love, and living bungalow ranch style. Ferry croons with half a century of music and life experience. There’s a new depth there, a richness to the musical storytelling. There’s a sense of reflection.
At one point, I overheard, “Who didn’t hook up to Roxy Music in college?” and, “When a guy would put on ‘Avalon,’ you knew what that meant.” Well, the band hasn’t lost its touch when setting a mood. Couples dressed to impress swayed and embraced each other when Roxy Music played their more romantic tunes.
As Bryan Ferry sings, “Dance away the heartache,” I know I was. Sometimes we attend shows, see a movie, or experience a piece of art at a strange stage in life, and it hits a bit harder. That was the case for me at the Roxy Music show at Chicago’s United Center.
I treat my depression with cannabis. I also treat it with soul-soothing music, but I am someone who smokes to ease a bit of stress and pain. At the Roxy Music concert, I was feeling both. Life had taken a sharp turn into a ditch I hadn’t expected, and I was lost. I struggled to have fun, to be in the moment. For two hours, though, Roxy Music, and yes, a bit of THC, brought joy back into my life.
Sometimes you need to see or hear something beautiful to get your mindset back on the road towards a brighter destination. For me, it was Roxy Music’s 50th-anniversary tour. I needed a relaxing high and the sight and sound of music that, for a long time, has kept me warm and happy.
I went to Roxy Music’s concert in the dumps, but a night of singing, dancing, and screaming, “YEAH, Bryan!” eased the heartache Ferry and the band has always captured with their lyrics and instrumentals, both relatable and dreamlike.