Pop review: Roxy Music

Roxy Music,
SECC, Glasgow

This being a Roxy Music reunion, the nostalgia is of the most stylish kind. The website offers fashion tips for those attending the gigs: white tuxedos for boys; outfits based on the album covers for girls.

Before the band appear on stage - the first time Bryan Ferry, Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay have performed together for 18 years - a gauzy curtain pulls back to reveal archive footage of the band, which later merges into live projections of the show, also filmed in moody black and white. It's a flattering look for the trio, with their combined age of 159.

Style rules over substance in the opening numbers (Remake-Remodel, Streetlife) too, as the muffled sound - a bit like hearing Roxy through floorboards - struggles in this vast, charmless arena. Ferry, in black leather trousers and a silver lamé jacket (then white tuxedo, then black leather to finish), cuts a fine figure, dancing as if he is holding Ken Dodd's tickling sticks then freezing in a still avant-garde pose, a crab flaunting its pincers.

Manzanera and Mackay sport brightly coloured frock coats, somewhere between high Edwardian chic and Teddy Boy streetwear. The stage set echoes the cover of Siren, all deep blues and jade greens; behind billowing folds of organza there's a big wodge of something that is probably supposed to look like coral but actually looks like a giant piece of petrified broccoli.

At its best, the two-hour set re-creates Roxy Music's special magic, their theatricality and musical agenda-setting; you can still hear this on Ladytron, how it must have been sudden, bewildering and unlike anything else. There are songs the band still love to perform - Song For Europe, Mother of Pearl, Editions of You, Virginia Plain - and during these, the reunion not only makes sense, you forget they ever went away.

But reality kicks in on weaker numbers that perhaps they feel obliged to play. On some songs they simply sound as if they've run out of steam: Avalon is so half-heartedly done, we could be in the company of a lacklustre tribute band. And all the sophistication drains away as Roxy bring on the dancing girls.

Sure, they always surrounded themselves with glossy lovelies but now, with bus passes on the horizon for the band, the girls look tacky. It's almost heartbreaking to behold them writhing like table dancers for Mother of Pearl.

The trio claw back considerable credibility with a second encore of For Your Pleasure, a sly twist of a song to end with. Its title partly answers the "Why do it?" question hanging over the reunion, but reminds us too of the days when they sounded and looked like no one else, did things no other band would.

During the song, with minimal fuss, the trio leave the stage one by one, and don't return for a final bow. It's a dignified way to end a nostalgia-fest that could have been the first really undignified thing Roxy Music ever did.

Roxy Music play Nottingham Arena (0115-989 5555) tomorrow, then tour.


Elisabeth Mahoney

The GuardianTramp

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