Roxy Music review, Los Angeles: After 50 years, few bands deliver more than this

Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music performing at The Forum in Los Angeles on 28 September, 2022  (Matthew Becker)
Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music performing at The Forum in Los Angeles on 28 September, 2022 (Matthew Becker)

On the final night of their first American tour in over two decades, art rock pioneers Roxy Music started at the beginning. They appeared on stage at The Forum in Los Angeles and launched straight into “Re-Make/Re-Model”, the eclectic, experimental song that opened their self-titled debut album in 1972. Behind them, towering screens showed the band as they looked soon after forming in London a year earlier, in all their youthful glam glory: Rakish frontman Bryan Ferry in tiger print, with cheekbones that could cut glass. Synthesizer wizard Brian Eno with his long blonde mullet, looking like Riff-Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

This reunion tour, which arrives in the UK for Glasgow, Manchester and London shows in October, is timed to mark the 50th anniversary of that first Roxy record. While Eno is not present, having moved on to his own projects as early as 1973, the intervening half-century has not wearied the remaining band members or diminished their sense of style. Guitarist Phil Manzanera, who looks eerily like John McEnroe dressed as John Waters, snatches the limelight on several occasions with his string of blistering guitar solos, notably the squalling climax of 1972’s “Ladytron”.

Saxophonist Andy Mackay also frequently takes centre stage, soloing on various wind instruments while dressed in a double-breasted suit that gives him the appearance of late character actor Philip Baker Hall playing a crumpled private eye. Bryan Ferry, of course, still looks like Bryan Ferry. The singer turned 77 only a few days ago, but remains as lithe and graceful as ever. When he gets up from his keyboard to dance he gyrates smoothly, shaking his fist by his side like the most elegant man at the craps table. His hair is perfect.

If the years have been kind to Roxy Music’s appearance, they have been kinder still to their artistic legacy. The band’s eight studio albums, all released between 1972 and 1982, were undoubtedly ahead of their time. Their sound, and fashion sense, has echoed through pop history ever since. Their influence can be heard in peers such as David Bowie, the Eighties new wave of Devo, Talking Heads and Blondie and on through arch, articulate bands like Pulp and TV on the Radio.

Over the course of a two-hour set, the band ably demonstrate why their impact has lasted despite often ambivalent initial album sales. They were sharp-eared progressives who were also blessed with a lyricist whose erudite love songs covered everything from early infatuation to heartbreak and loss. Ferry’s words paint pictures. “Oh Yeah”, a hit in 1980, is a thrilling snapshot of Americana and long, hot summer evenings at the drive-in. 1973’s “In Every Dream Home A Heartache”, meanwhile, is slower and contemplative, played out as video screens transform the venue into the inside of a bright green lava lamp. Later, Ferry’s lothario charms come to the forefront on 1982’s seductive “To Turn You On”. A soaring version of 1975’s “Love Is The Drug” sparks a singalong before 1973’s “Do The Strand” brings the show to a triumphant close.

The most sublime moment, however, is “More Than This”. The opening track from 1982’s Avalon was famously performed at karaoke by Bill Murray in Sofia Coppola’s 2003 film Lost in Translation. When it arrives, midway through the second half of the gig, it explodes in the arena like an emotional bomb rigged with romance, longing and the inevitability of loss. When it’s done, Ferry takes an elaborate bow. After 21 years of waiting, Roxy Music’s American fans couldn’t ask for more.