Brian Ferry, the Roxy Music singer who was once one of the most charismatic and influential figures in rock music, will turn 77 this month. The sounds and movements that made him famous in the band’s early days are now completely understandable and out of his reach.
However, even in the absence of the high tones, the night had a lot of highlights. Before the song If There Is Something, the emotional tune from the eponymous first record that inspired the tour, Ferry told the audience that it was difficult to narrow down a specific list of 50 years of songs. But he continued, “We can’t go without doing this.” Among her sad words: “The grass was greener when I was young.”
The first reference to the band in this newspaper came in a 1973 story about the first wave of rock acts that used elaborate stage outfits and costumes. Roxy Music has garnered more attention from rock fans in the US for its racy album covers than for its own music. The band was among those cited in the trailer for having “manipulated the element of homosexuality” for “shock value”. No less than John Lennon came to the defense of such bands, saying that regardless of the packaging, they are still rock ‘n’ roll. “The only difference is that they’re wearing a lot of paint now,” Lennon told The Post. The band’s rock days are revisited on Friday with an iteration of 1973’s “In Every Dream Home a Heartache,” a spooky love song that shows Ferry contemplating his passion for an inflatable doll. The conscious audience jumped completely on its feet as the song transitioned from a whisper to a scream, and fans continued to cheer as guitarist Phil Manzanera rips Paul Thompson’s drums, and spotlights flashed.
Tour venues seem more popular than the band after all these years. Hours before the show seats at Capital One were shown, only $7 was listed on ticket resale sites, and the entire upper deck of the plaza was empty. But for the people who attended—many of whom were of the same demographic age as Ferry—what they lacked in number, they made up for it with enthusiasm. Lots of fans came in wearing T-shirts and/or dinner jackets like the ones Ferry once wore, while he became known as the rock’s cutest singer. The herd provided a lot of vocal assistance to Ferry in the 1975 film Love Is Drugs. Nostalgia is an equally powerful drug.
Roxy’s music will eventually get a lot better if she remembers new romantic music rather than things that are scary or fast paced. As the show wrapped up, Ferry led his fellow Murderer’s Row slow dancers from the band’s catalog in the 1980s, rendering “More Than This” and “Avalon” almost as two spoken words, as a man who knows his vocal limitations will do. Ambiguous arrangements only added sentiment to these classics. Finally came the faithful cover of “Jealous Guy” – a song written by their old defender Lennon, made famous by Roxy Music. This religious song was among the first tunes in which rock stars showed a weak side. Fairey had already spent the entire show exposing his physical weaknesses, and he didn’t push his vocal cords beyond their ability here either. Manzanera’s guitar solo imitated the stunning verse tune, Andy McKay did the sax, then Ferry nailed the whistle, just as fans remember it. “Jealous Guy” was a great tune when Lennon wrote it half a century ago, and it was a great song when it was recorded by Roxy Music. It was also amazing as it performed on this night. As long as you know what you’re getting into, a reunion can be very satisfying.