INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Sounds APRIL 7, 1973 - by Steve Peacock
THE ROXY MACHINE LEAVES YOU COLD
RAINBOW THEATRE, SATURDAY: What a strange feeling - there's usually a touch of the dreaded showbiz gawping in the foyer of the Rainbow, but tonight when the Roxy freaks are out in force everyone who comes in gets subjected to the long cool stare.
Lloyd Watson is about to start his set, but there are still plenty of people in various stages of undress and overdress draping themselves around the foyer. Mr. Watson stands on stage and plays electric slide-finger guitar well, rolling and tumbling as it were, and sings not very well. Fair enough, and nice enough for a couple of numbers but I can't really take it for longer - the trouble is he builds up a nice flow, and then loses it every time he break's off the riff to play a solo. Maybe he should work with a rhythm section, or even just a piano player; it would take some of the weight off his shoulders.
The Sharks next - I was looking forward to seeing them because Andy Fraser's always been one of my favourite rock bass players and Chris Spedding is capable of some fine guitar playing. They start out well, heavy rhythm section, good licks, neat breaks, Snips singing away with a kind of efficient ballsy, rock style that comes over well. Efficient was the word for them really - I imagine on a good night, in a closer setting the Sharks could really build a powerful atmosphere but tonight isn't the night.
And then it's showtime. A blonde bird dressed in black mesh and garters slinks on to announce that she's the special surprise and now it's time for Roxy Music: the lights dim, black drapes at the back are hoisted to reveal coloured drapes and four birds in blue jeans and red T-shirts standing on a raised platform. The band (minus Bryan) come on, plug in, and stand waiting with their backs to the audience: lights go up Bryan leaps on stage, waggles his arse at us and they go into Do The Strand, with the birds at the back hopping about like Pan's People without a routine. Next, Bryan takes to the side of the stage and his keyboards for Grey Lagoons, then Beauty Queen. Bogus Man which flows into Ladytron, then a heavy production number with Bryan out front with a guitar slung round his neck, spot-lit, intoning the song until the end when he strummed the band to crescendo and conducted the end by leaping in the air. Then they did If There Is Something, then Bryan asked everyone to come up a little closer for Editions Of You and then the first finale Re-Make/Re-Model.
No hit singles yet, of course, but they come back for the encore to rip through Pyjamarama first and then Virginia Plain: The audience roared and squealed their appreciation throughout - that has to be said, they were very well received - but then they were roaring and squealing at the very mention of the band's name so I'm not sure how much that counts. Someone was saying afterwards that even if you don't like something yourself, you have to give people credit for getting all those people going - at the time I nodded vaguely but really I'm getting sick of being expected to dig things just because a theatre full of people rave. In fact, though I could appreciate that the set had been niftily, put together, cleverly rehearsed and was entirely successful in its limited terms great showbiz, I was entirely unmoved throughout the performance: Elvis in Las Vegas works for Elvis in Las Vegas, but is it what you expect froth Roxy Music at the Rainbow. Certainly, it isn't what I wanted, nor is it all they are capable of. I could handle a rock machine trying to turn me on but the Roxy Machine left me dead cold.
SUNDAY: Thinking about the gig afterwards, I couldn't really believe how completely soul-less and expressionless I'd found Roxy the night before. I really do think that the band have it in them to create exciting, co-operatively inspired music - think of the potential of something like Bogus Man really taking of with the strong rhythm section of Paul Thompson and John Porter keeping it anchored and the front-line force of Eno, Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay and Bryan Ferry interlocking and sparking ideas. Maybe Saturday was a bad night - certainly they had sound problems, so perhaps they'd had a fit of nerves and decided to retreat behind the bland facade of a Bryan Ferry show to be safe.
Anyway, as they were there on Sunday as well, I thought I'd try again. With a few minor exceptions - the dancing girls had sawn off the legs of their jeans, the sound was a bit more together (though Phil's amp was malfunctioning through half of Beauty Queen and Bogus Man) and the act was slightly slicker - Roxy's set was exactly the same, right down to Bryan's stage movements and 'ad-lib' introductions.
I reacted the same too only more so: if it seemed predictable the first time round, you can imagine how it felt the second night running. I found myself watching the left-hand corner of the stage, just waiting for Eno or Phil to get something moving, to break the format, but it only happened once - at the end of Ladytron, and then only for a minute or so. OK: so Bryan Ferry's band can put on a good, professional showbiz performance - they look good, they play with the efficiency their show demands and their public think it's all quite delightful. If I thought that was what they all wanted to do, or if I thought it was all they could do, I'd be quite happy - I don't think I'd go and see it, but I wouldn't knock it. As it is, I know they're capable of something much less banal and I suspect they're not all committed to the way the band has moved in the past few months. I fear, what we have now is a stunted mutant of the potential giantkiller that was Roxy Music.