Friday 18 March 2011

Roxy Music at the Rainbow Theatre, London

KONO IS a Japanese journalist, top of his class. One week he's flaming around New York, the next week in London, hip to all the latest sights and sounds. With him are Mr. and Mrs. Kato, former folk duo, now leaders of Japan's top hard rock group, Sadistic Mika Band (Mika being Mrs. K's name). Their official business in the Hub of the Empire is to buy a Rolls Royce, but they’re also ferreting out the latest in glitz and glam. Used to be that David Bowie was their main man, but when Kari-Ann whispered the delights of Roxy to them things took a slight change. Why, they even took a trip to Putney to buy a VCS 3 synthesizer, just because ELO has one. Now they stand in the lobby of the Rainbow, a true palace of Decadence, trendily but tastefully attired in the finest raiment Kings Road and City Lights can offer. Around them swirl we should be roués and tarts of sleepy London town: make up smeared on androgynous pusses, hennaed Bowie hair, costumes ranging from F. Scott fantasy to David Bowie wet dream. (Yep, he's actually affected fashion.) Prancing and posing under the night sky ceiling and papier maché palms, eyeing each other's creations, the sense of “Event” hangs heavy in the air, and we know we won't be disappointed.

The stars in the ceiling dim and over the PA thunders 'The Pride and the Pain', Andy Mackay's madly funny pastiche of ‘El Cid’ and ‘Exodus’ film themes. Out struts Amanda, the leggy dish of the second album cover, very arousing in her black fringe and g-string, and in a husky voice that could melt Phillip Marlowe's defences in a nova flash, introduces the first true band of the Seventies, Our Boys. They run on to the traditional thunderous applause and break into 'Do The Strand' as the backdrop lifts, revealing a stunning maze of drapes and lights amidst which five girls go-go the night away.

Front and centre is Bryan Ferry, James Dean in black, Roxy's attention/attraction. Spreading out on either side are saxman Andy Mackay and guitarist Phil Manzanera, stepping out in 30's conception of the well dressed space rake; electronics whiz Eno, dainty peacock feathers framing his subtly made up vogue-like features; and the thundering rhythms of drummer Paul Thompson, late of shipyards and construction sites, and bassist John Porter, late of Little Feat. They may appear effete and glossy, given to articulation and intellectualism, but they can still put the boot in and rock, and on this night did they ever!

Although the basic feel is 50's filtered through The Move, with references to all and sundry injected throughout, there is a distinct strain, believe it or not, of good old psychedelic music, and if we can proudly accept our surf and punk pop roots, then what's wrong with a little mind expansion on the side?

Eno's love is music that repeats itself, either in the Velvet Underground manner or the more "avant" John Cage/Terry Riley style, while Andy, a musician trained in all forms, can call up honking riffs from Coasters era King Curtis to the most boring modern jazz, working from a philosophy that sees it all as just plain music (and even if you do try to dismiss them, you gotta give credit for reviving that great so-so instrument, the saxophone). Flying behind Bryan's soulish Cole Porter stylings, it gives you enough aural pie, regardless of classifications, that there ain't no way you're gonna be hungry.

Roxy are still new enough at the game that the thrill of actually controlling blows their minds, and the enthusiasm of their live show can't be beat. (And it sure is nice to see an audience jumping around with true rock fervour – no mellow folks from Marin here!) So you best see them in the next couple of years before they get famous and ultra rich and become jaded old farts like the Rolling Stones. Who wants to see Bryan Ferry dance with Mr. D?

Phonograph Record, September 1973
©John Ingham

No comments: