It’s like a bad Internet date. On disc, Roxy Music is a paragon of louche experimental sophistication. In the flesh, the band is cheap, lazy and interminable.
Roxy Music released eight influential albums of art rock between 1972 and 1982 before disbanding in 1983. It has played a few sporadic gigs since 2001 and reunited for its 40th anniversary. Its tour, named “For Your Pleasure” after Roxy’s second album, is heading to Australia and New Zealand for the rest of this month and March.
Four members of the original lineup are participating: vocalist Bryan Ferry, guitarist Phil Manzanera, saxophonist Andy Mackay and drummer Paul Thompson. Brian Eno, the most notable other former member, continues to keep his distance, preferring to theorize about pop and produce Coldplay. He may have a point.
Onstage at London’s O2 Arena, every expense is spared. There are some high-school art-project video projections and two dancing girls. Of the Roxy Music that dressed Jerry Hall as a mermaid for a record sleeve, nothing is to be seen.
The lighting is poor, with no screens broadcasting magnified footage of the musicians: Unless you are sitting in the front rows, there is very little to see. (There were a lot of seats, not all of them filled, behind those front few.)
The music doesn’t plug the entertainment deficit. Ferry’s vocals, although still beguiling, lack the strange sexual urgency of his youth. The surrounding musicianship is safe, satisfied and peppered with alternating guitar and sax solos. The striking textures that once made Roxy Music songs so singular are lost in a mid-tempo sonic mush.
“Virginia Plain,” without the shrill flamboyance of the recording, is an average rock ‘n’ roll number. “In Every Dream Home a Heartache,” decadently disturbing on record, is embarrassingly awkward. Only the songwriting perfection of “Avalon” still raises goose bumps. Yet its legendary pristine smoothness is more akin to plastic-packaged cheese.
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
Robert Heller is a music critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the writer on the story: Robert Heller in London at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Beech at email@example.com.