Roxy Music

Live at the Apollo [Warner DVD]

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Even in an age that is positively swamped by reunions, the revitalization of Roxy Music was never going to be just another bunch of old guys chasing the golden goose one more time. There was, after all, always a sense that the band still had a lot of old business to see to. Nobody could claim to have been satisfied by the ragged ending of the original group, and the 18 years that separated Avalon from news of the re-formation scarcely overflowed with new acts to compete with Roxy's ghosts -- and that includes the bandmembers' own subsequent projects. Nevertheless, it was impossible to predict just how dynamic the show would turn out to be, just how effortless their re-creation of past glories would emerge, and just how exhilarating it would be to see Bryan Ferry, Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera, and Paul Thompson sharing a stage once again. From the looming murmur of "Remake Remodel" that ushers in the concert (just as it ushered in Roxy's first album almost 30 years earlier) to the extended farewells that bring "For Your Pleasure" to a close, Live at the Apollo reads like the greatest Roxy hits collection ever, but plays like the freshest band you've ever hoped to witness.

Buried away among the DVD's bonus material, during the 17-minute documentary that preps you for the main attraction, guitarist Manzanera remarks that this was the first occasion on which the band had toured without having a new record to promote -- the first, in other words, on which the group could concentrate wholly on the music. The freedom is apparent from the outset. Drifting through Roxy Music's entire career without apparent preference for any single album or era, the band is in blistering form -- Ferry is spellbinding while barely moving a muscle, Mackay remains the epitome of cool, and Manzanera's guitar is simply devastating, a firestorm of effects and eccentricities that matches Ferry's lyricism note for freakish note. Of the auxiliary Roxy-ites, Chris Spedding, Lucy Wilkins, and Julia Thornton also pack undeniable visual punch, while four dancers are so much more than window dressing that the years roll back to any -- and that means any -- past Roxy show, as though not a day has gone by. And, if there is any criticism to be made of the entire event, it's that it reveals just how shallow so many other modern reunions are. Early into the performance, Ferry tells the audience, "This is Roxy Music." He's right -- it is.

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