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Roxy Music finally headlines at Madison Square Garden

BY EVERYNIGHT CHARLEY CRESPO | The first time Roxy Music played Madison Square Garden was 50 years ago, then as an unknown British art-rock band opening for Jethro Tull.

At that time, Roxy Music was two years old and had played nothing larger than small clubs in England. Touring the United States for the first time, the band was promoting its self-titled debut album.

Roxy Music did not get a lot of love back then from New York City’s Jethro Tull fans, who were more into prog rock. Fifty years later, Roxy Music is celebrating the golden anniversary of that album with a tour that included the band’s first-ever headlining gig at the world-famous arena.

Phil Manzanera’s guitar leads were a highlight of the show. (Photo by Everynight Charley Crespo)

In the intervening five decades, Roxy Music split apart and regrouped several times. The band today consists of four longtime members, vocalist/pianist Brian Ferry, multi-instrumentalist Andy Mackay, drummer Paul Thompson and guitarist Phil Manzanera, who had not played together since 2011.

During the years the band was inactive, Ferry remained the most visible, nurturing a solo career and performing Roxy Music songs live with his own ensemble of hired musicians. On Aug. 15, Ferry published a book, “Lyrics,” exploring the songs he wrote for various Roxy Music and solo albums.

The core four members employed considerable assistance for this tour. The touring unit also included guitarist Tom Vanstiphout, keyboardists Christian Gulino and Chloe Beth Smith, multi-instrumentalist Jorja Chalmers, bassist Neil Jason, percussionist Nathen “Tugg” Curran and backing vocalists Phebe Edwards, Fonzi Thornton and Senab Adekunle. All 13  had designated moments to shine.

Andy Mackay is another of the original band members. (Photo by Everynight Charley Crespo)

St. Vincent opened the program at Madison Square Garden with a visually engaging pop set, breaking up the tight choreography at one point by walking through the audience and sitting on the lap of a spectator. By the time Roxy Music came on stage to the sounds of a prerecorded “India,” the arena’s entire upper deck was still empty. The show was far from a sell-out.

The band performed a fair amount of selections from the early albums. Yet much of the concert pivoted on the mellow and melancholy sound of the band’s later period. Working with a narrower vocal range than in his prime, the 77-year-old Ferry sang with style, without reaching for higher notes. Manzanera may have been the star of the concert, interjecting provocative guitar leads throughout the show, amplifying and almost contradicting the suave New Romantic ballads.

The concert at Madison Square Garden was nostalgia for old fans. “More Than This,” “Dance Away,” “Avalon,” “Love Is the Drug” and a cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” drew some of the loudest and longest cheers. The band brought current events into the concert by dedicating “Tara” to the late Queen Elizabeth II, with her image displayed on-screen at the end of the song. Yes, Roxy Music is still a class act.

The uneasy question that lingers silently is how long Roxy Music will remain relevant if its entire repertoire stagnates in the 20th century. The band that split apart in 1976, 1982 and 2011 seems to have abandoned any further attempts at creativity. Roxy Music may continue to cocoon in the safety of old songs or it can risk seeing if the players can recreate new musical magic. A 50th anniversary tour was a proper marketing initiative, but promises no future beyond reunions for Roxy Music.

Set list:

  1. Re-Make/Re-Model

  2. Out of the Blue

  3. The Bogus Man

  4. Ladytron

  5. While My Heart Is Still Beating

  6. Oh Yeah

  7. If There Is Something

  8. In Every Dream Home a Heartache

  9. Tara

  10. To Turn You On

  11. The Main Thing

  12. Dance Away

  13. Same Old Scene

  14. My Only Love

  15. More Than This

  16. Avalon

  17. Love Is the Drug

  18. Editions of You

  19. Do the Strand

  20. Jealous Guy (John Lennon cover)

One Comment

  1. Frank O'Brien Frank O'Brien November 6, 2022

    Who was the warm up band for this show?

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