In March, Roxy Music was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In a speech formally presenting the honor, Duran Duran’s Simon LeBon recalled how Roxy’s first single “Virginia Plain” was a pop culture bomb to the British public.
“The open heart surgery that was Bryan Ferry’s lyric writing would take us deep into emotion and romance,” Simon said of Roxy Music’s frontman, adding that the band’s eight studio albums over a 12-year span would showcase experimentation, drive, humor, and artistic versatility. “Without Roxy Music, there would be no Duran Duran,” Simon said, and with that statement, he captured the sentiment of a whole generation of musicians on both sides of the Atlantic.
On our side of the pond, Bryan Ferry launched a North American Tour in July that landed at The Anthem recently, and while some may call the new show a Rock Hall victory lap, all of that experimentation and versatility were plain to see in DC on Aug. 13.
The 2019 tour was announced as an opportunity for Bryan to showcase Avalon — Roxy Music’s haunting final album in 1982. And showcase it Bryan and his band did — hitting nearly every song on the 10-track record in a show-stopping song or sample. At The Anthem, Bryan opened the concert with “The Main Thing” and “The Space Between” — he strolled in with a air of triumph to pick up the vocals for “The Main Thing,” and the audience cheered from their seats.
Stream Avalon by Roxy Music on Spotify:
Tall, dapper, and distinguished, Bryan Ferry was born for the stage. And he seemed very much at home at The Anthem, moving from station to station as if he lived there his entire life (although this was his very first visit to the young stage). Occasionally, he sat and played the keyboard, as he did for the tropical-inflected “The Space Between.”
The potency of those selections from Avalon were not lost upon The Anthem. There is no more heartbreaking “farewell” song than that record’s unforgettable title track — full of resignation yet self-determination. But wow, at around the concert’s two-thirds mark, Bryan and his 10-member band simmered with “In Every Dream Home a Heartache,” and the disruptive force found in Roxy’s second album, For Your Pleasure, was laid bare. Seated again at his keyboard, Bryan opened the song gently enough but then the bottom fell out when the guitars exploded and the crazed fever dream of the song’s subject matter is exposed. In the end, it’s an indictment of artificiality.
With “In Every Dream Home a Heartache,” the show became a bit more frenetic, and Bryan turned the laser intensity of the Roxy catalog to the max with the double barrel blast of “More Than This” and “Avalon” — two more poignant songs dedicated to longing you’ll never find. The show took a detour to fulfill that longing a bit with a fantastic rendition of the libido-driven glam of “Love Is the Drug,” where satisfaction is found for both narrator and listener.
The thumping beat of “Editions of You” burned the disruptive power of For Your Pleasure into our minds again. In a welcome surprise, Bryan followed it with “Do the Strand,” and we were struck giddy by the joyous rollercoaster call-to-arms that was Mr. Ferry’s personal dance revolution.
Well, as with any concert by Bryan Ferry, the show as more of a revelation than a revolution, and the awestruck audience embraced every word, every note, with full recognition that they were in the presence of the world’s most sophisticated gentleman rocker.
There are a handful of dates remaining on the current North American Tour — Bryan wraps it up in Vancouver on Sept. 5 (he’s in Atlanta tonight). Spoil yourself and take a date to this Roxy-heavy performance, which will remind you of why Bryan Ferry remains an icon to more than one generation of innovators and dreamers.
Here are some pictures of Bryan Ferry — and a few of his band — performing at The Anthem on Aug. 13, 2019. Photos by Mickey McCarter!