English group Roxy Music made records for just 11 years, releasing eight albums between 1972 and 1982. But these records, which artfully blended elements of glam-rock, jazz, punk and more with style and flair distinct, influenced many artists in the decades to come, enough to warrant their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019.
Notable anniversaries sparked reunions in the 21st century, starting with a 30th anniversary tour in 2001 that nearly led to a new Roxy Music album. (Sessions featuring multiple band members were eventually released as part of frontman Bryan Ferry’s solo album “Olympia” in 2010.) After a series of 40th anniversary concerts in 2011, the band became inactive again. But the 50th anniversary of his self-titled debut album prompted a 13-date tour that included Roxy Music’s first concert in Austin since a 1976 appearance at Armadillo’s world headquarters.
Ferry has played Austin twice in the past five years, both times at ACL Live, and it’s possible that venue would have been a better choice for Wednesday’s gig at the University of Texas’ new Moody Center. Of the 10 concerts I’ve reviewed so far at the arena, which opened in April, this was the first in which upper deck seats were blocked by panels designed to reduce attendance UT basketball games. Floor seats were mostly full, but the lower sections on the sides had plenty of empty seats, and online resellers were selling tickets for less than $10 earlier this week.
Onstage attendance, however, was plentiful: longtime members Ferry (vocals and keyboards), Phil Manzanera (guitar), Andy Mackay (saxophone and oboe) and Paul Thompson (drums) brought nine other musicians with them. , allowing the band to stretch their wide sonic palette. The sophistication of their sound sometimes got lost in an arena that was partly designed for sports, while a towering video display behind the stage often seemed too big for the occasion.
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But the music itself was fascinating. Although Ferry’s cool but melodious croon takes center stage in the songs, more often than not the real driving force is the instrumental interplay between Manzanera’s inventive guitars and Mackay’s splendid saxophone and oboe solos. Keyboards, horns, additional guitars, a second drummer and a backing three-voice section further enhanced the presentation of songs taken from almost all of the band’s studio albums.
The main focus was on the first two and last two records, including six tracks from the band’s swan song “Avalon” in 1982. Roxy Music’s only album to go platinum in the United States, it featured several tracks that defined the band, including the title track and “More Than This”. These two were played back-to-back as the band hit the home stretch of their 100-minute set, following them up with the rocking “Love Is the Drug”, the band’s highest charting single of 1975.
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The first half of the show featured more songs from the band’s early years, including the first three songs from the band’s 1972 debut album. Its first track, “Re-Make/Re-Model,” opened the concert with a bang. of energy that ensured that the young musicians would help kick things up a notch for the seventy core members.
Other highlights included “Dance Away,” which, true to its title, had people in the audience dancing; “Oh Yeah” from 1980s “Flesh and Blood,” which featured jumbotron imagery of drive-ins to complement its car-centric lyrics; and a brilliant closing cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” which topped the UK and Australian charts in 1981 when Roxy Music released it after Lennon’s death.
No small bonus for onlookers was the opening act St. Vincent, featuring Dallas singer-songwriter Annie Clark and her seven-piece band. A veteran of “Austin City Limits” TV tapings and ACL Fest performances, St. Vincent is simply eclectic. In a nine-song set, the band drew heavily on funk beats, with outbursts of radiant pop erupting at times.
Clark ventured into the arena during the song “New York”, mingling closely with the audience while continuing to sing. A telling moment came at the end of her last song, “The Melting of the Sun”: Gradually, she brought all her bandmates to the front of the stage with her, until they sang all the last lines together a cappella. And then Clark disappeared, giving the last spotlight to his fellow musicians.
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Roxy Music Setlist September 21st at Austin’s Moody Center
3. “The Fake Man”
4. “The Basics”
6. “While my heart is still beating”
7. “Oh yeah”
8. “If There Is Something”
9. “In every dream house, a heartache”
11. “My One Love”
12. “To Excite You”
13. “Dancing Away”
14. “Same Old Scene”
15. “More Than That”
17. “Love is the drug”
18. “Edits of You”
19. “Do the Strand”
20. “Jealous Guy”