After nearly twenty-years apart, the four original members of Roxy Music (minus Brian Eno) decided the time was right for a reunion. While there were steady rumors of new material, the main objective was to put the band back together and take the show on the road. So, Bryan Ferry, Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay, and Paul Thompson – along with a stellar cast of backing players – hit the road in mid-2001 and delivered what has to be one of the most satisfying reunion shows ever seen. Roxy proved they had lost none of their glam, and although Brian Eno was absent, they managed to recreate those wild and wacky sounds that glorified their first two records.
This two-disc set was put together using the best recordings of every song taken throughout the tour; this means, of course, that every one of these twenty-two songs sounds absolutely divine. The running order is also exactly the same as the tour setlist, which gives us the full show experience. The production is first class and there’s just enough crowd noise to create the right type of atmosphere for a live album. The song selection again cannot be faulted; it covers every period of their career, highlighting some of their best moments as well as showcasing a few of their abstract gems.
Disc one opens with frenetic workouts of “Re-Make/Re-Model” and “Street Life” before hitting the first of many highlights, a glorious rendition of “Ladytron.” Ferry, having long been a solo performer, sounds right at home with the band that sounds so good it’s like they never went away.
Manzanera is joined by Ferry’s longtime guitarist Chris Spedding, which makes for some awesome dueling throughout the show. “While My Heart Is Still Beating” (from Avalon) has never sounded better, with Ferry clearly eclipsing his performance on the original track with this version. This is also the first time that Paul Thompson’s powerful drumming style is prominent, giving the band a slightly harder edge than on their past live efforts.
“Out Of The Blue” is pure bliss to hear at the best of times, but again Roxy outdoes themselves with this superb offering. “A Song For Europe” is more at home in a live setting than on record, so they gave it an updated and extended workout that sounds beautiful. A loose, groovy “My Only Love” is also given more time here with an awesome eight-minute version that I again prefer to the original on the patchy Flesh + Blood.
A personal favorite of mine, the creepy “In Every Dream Home A Heartache,” is here in all of its sordid splendor. It has odd lyrics about a lonely man and his “perfect companion” (a lover of the inflatable kind), which no doubt would require some nerve to sing live, but Ferry seems to revel in it and it remains one of the strongest performance pieces here.
The mood is then lightened with fabulous version of “Oh Yeah,” which finds the band at their most carefree with Ferry singing about love again. A blistering “Both Ends Burning” is followed by the instrumental piece, “Tara” (essentially a duet between Mackay’s sax and Lucy Wilkin’s violin) to close out the first brilliant disc.
The second disc begins with a faithful versions of “More Than This” and “If There Is Something,” both of which sound as fresh as the day they were recorded. “Mother Of Pearl” (from Stranded) is here in its original form, and it remains one of Roxy’s strangest moments – they do strange well, though, so it’s a good thing. “Avalon” is about as smooth as anything I’ve ever heard; its lush arrangement and Ferry’s romantic crooning are still a match made in heaven. On “Dance Away,” Ferry is backed superbly by Sarah Brown’s sensual tones.
John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” is given another airing here, and although it’s never been a favorite of mine, Roxy manage to make it their own. A frantic workout of “Editions Of You” is vintage Roxy and another high point of this incredible set. “Virginia Plain” (from their 1972 debut) is pure craziness, but no one seems to care because it’s so much fun. “Love Is The Drug” is possibly their most enduring hit, and it still packs a mighty punch.
For Your Pleasure, my favorite Roxy LP, is represented again with a glorious take on “Do The Strand” before the band closes out the set with “For Your Pleasure” to rapturous adoration from a crowd of thousands. The fact is that this entire set has absolutely no weak spots; it is exceptional from start to finish. A DVD of the tour was filmed in London in 2001 titled Roxy Music Live At The Apollo, and I can tell you it is every bit as colorful and exciting watch as it is to hear. If this turns out to be the last thing Roxy ever does, then at least they went out better than ever in all their glitter rock glory.