New work. Book reviews. Ideas. Likes and gripes. The following blog is something of a random visual and written notebook brought to you by totalcontent. We’ll be covering a wide range of topics, from projects and prospects, to words and writing, to typography and technology, graphics and popular culture… and much more besides. Hope it tickles your fancy and feel free to have your say.
Ever since my younger sister warbled ‘This is Tomorrow Colin’ back in the 1970s, I’ve had a huge soft spot for Roxy Music. Glamorous, unpredictable, suave, tacky, arty, tongue in cheek... they have it all. I sported the Ferry fringe for as long as my follicles could carry it off, and for many years held the great man up as a role model and style icon.
And last night I finally got my chance to see them take to the boards at the Nottingham Arena — part of their 40th anniversary tour, their first outing in six years. They didn’t disappoint. This was a real show show, with all-action backing dancers and singers, and a nine-strong band of impeccable musicians who took it in turn to blow the audience away with impossible solos. Roxy powered through a mix classics old and new... though they went surprising easy on the laid-back middle period (Avalon/Flesh and Blood) which saw them at their most successful, though perhaps least inventive.
Savile Row-suited Bryan Ferry cut a slightly reticent figure, cooly detached from the audience, often retreating behind keyboards — perhaps some sort of attempt at being a member of the band than a front man. His voice wasn’t what it used to be, but still, a pleasing enough part of the multi-layered production, and buoyed by highly accomplished backing singers, particularly the astonishing tonsils of Sewuese Abwa. The real stars were stalwarts Andy McKay and Phil Manzanera — live, you can immediately see how McKay’s alto sax informs the distinctive Roxy sound, while Manzanera’s guitar sings out like a sizzling siren.
Plaudits too to the VJ, his kaleidoscopic backdrops interweaving graphics, animation and film clips with live close-ups of the ensemble. The mesmeric montage perfectly captured Roxy’s art-school roots, touching their key visual reference points — from Hollywood glamour, to sleek typography, neon signage, show girls, and of course, outtakes from the iconic LP covers.
Past their prime? Maybe. But I’m happy to be able to say I’ve seen the band who came 98th in Rolling Stone’s ‘100 Greatest Artists of All Time’. And I beg to differ... Roxy Music — who started breaking the rules way before punk — are still doing the Strand in my top 10.