Roxy Music/ Manchester Free Trade Hall
Tony Tyler, NME,
See our previous posting about Tony's classic cult book
THERE'S NOW not much doubt that when Roxy Music and the delicate Eno parted ways, Roxy lost a talented poseur but gained a gifted musician. Curiously enough, this exchange - seemingly to the advantage of the Roxettes - is not totally so: Eddie Jobson's kills on keyboards and (especially) violin are substantial. But, although he tries hard to compensate visually for the breathtaking presence of Mr. E., his more lightweight aura ( this isn't meant unkindly; Eno had years of a decadence apprenticeship) robs the stage lefthand comer of the lurid posturings so much a part of the earlier Roxy image. That being said, Jobson played really well when The Roxies took the boards at
I've never really seen the band go down as well as they did with any audience, and it can only be a measure of the new stature they've attained since Bryan Ferry re-grouped his shell-shocked battalions around him after the Eno departure. On they came, dead on time, and several things were instantly obvious. Firstly, as Bob Edmands reported last week, the band have ditched the articulated rhinestone look in favour of a more individual approach to haute couture. The trash element - an important part of Roxy's earlier breakthrough is now Out Of Favour with Mr. F.; suitings and clothings ranged from Ferry's own Lower Deck Lothario Look (a cruise ship white tux ensemble) to Jobson's March Hare tailcoat. Both Phil Manzanera and the current stand-in bassist sported soft leathers, garnished with slightly effeminate studs, while the Great Paul Thompson (as Ferry introduced him) favoured his suede-'n-cloth look as of yore. Andy Mackay appeared in a baritone sax and a distinguished suit of broadcloth with a string tie that gave him an undeniable air of fried chicken emporiums.
Throughout the set - which began well and built to a tremendous climax, Ferry showed how much he now firmly believes in his own talent and charisma. He can now stagger Strandily between mike and piano, catching the spot just in time to wheeze out his next phrase. He's now an undoubted visual attraction -with one exceptional circumstance: when Ferry occupies stage right, as he must for his piano work, the rest of the visuals seem strangely empty without another real posturer to grab the retina the way Eno succeeded in doing. Ferry is now The Man in Roxy; both Manzanera and Mackay are too accomplished as musicians to unwind sufficiently. Thompson? It's not in his nature. Jobson? Trying, but he's too new and still an unknown.
Nonetheless, Jobson was, for me, the surprise of the night. His approach to electronics is more technical and less individualistic than Eno's (his mutation of the Phil Manzanera power smashes during "Ladytron" were feeble and left Manzanera somewhat out on his own with an empty chord ringing embarrassingly in his sideboard-smothered ears). But Jobson's violin work, used too sparingly until the encore, added a new force to Roxy's musical approach. His solo on "ReMake, Re-Model" exactly paralleled Manzanera's own in spirit and I foresee a formidable musical partnership between the two. Jobson's piano work, too, enabled El Ferry to cavort more than before (no doubt another reason for Ed's inclusion) -- but, then again, almost everybody in that band gets to play keyboards at one time or another. Even Andy Mackay whose sax suffered from dumpy sound - played organ on a new "Psalm", a reverent bolero type number that displayed instant powers of attraction with the Mancunians.
Sound quality throughout was grim, several different varieties of feedback dominating much of the set. The onstage footlight monitors were (I later learned) also on the blink, so there was an imbalance between Ferry's voice, which needs - and got - all the help it can get, and the potential thunder of this new, beefed-up Roxy. All too often the band merged into a noisy porridge and I feel a re-think of sound techniques is essential if the band are successfully to conclude that transition from effeminate glitzkriegers to A Band In Their Own Right. But it was quite an immaculate gig, all found. The older numbers were joyously received and the newer tunes politely listened to. Towards the end,
'I hate Rock and Roll'