Monday, August 2, 2010

Roxy Music: A Song for Europe

From 1979: Blue suits of all around, except one: The maestro himself redolent in strawberry-red leather.

Bryan Ferry may very well be the model of metrosexuality. He could be the only non-pimp on the planet capable of squiring Playmates and super models with such fruit-colored attire. The secret could only be the voice: An instrument that's somewhere between a Victrola-age crooner, soul shouter, and Theramin, as much Tiny Tim as Jackie Wilson and cabaret. (His vibrato may be one of the natural wonders of the world.) Roxy Music being the other integral part of the equation: A band that provides a jungle that might otherwise not be of the crooner's natural habitat.

Bryan Ferry's stage presence, as you'll see here, is charmingly awkward. His facial contortions are unselfconsciously and unashamedly nerd-like. You could say he owns his ungainliness, makes it sexy even. (There's a lesson in there for all of us.) Forging it all together — band, voice, and songs — the end result is a weapons grade alloy that's mysteriously cool.

Below, a version from 2001:

This version, with subtitled lyrics including the Latin (!) and French bits at the end, is from their tour following a break of 18 years. The stage band here is expanded (as are the individual members, cough cough): Now, long coats all around. Ferry's voice is changed but no less an instrument. Whatever he's lost in range he's made up with depth and percision. Roxy Music, and even Ferry on his own, are one of the few acts of the rock music age who made the transition from young quirky innovators to wizened Lite FM mainstream without any apparent loss of dignity. I mention dignity often here (see Nick Cave and P.J. Harvey below) because I think it's important. Dignity for the artist is simply an outcome of remaining true to your vision and keeping it constantly directed forward. Neither of the bands in the videos above have much in common with the band it was in 1971, the long coats tell us that. But even as change is inevitable, it's also an opportunity. For this band, clearly, it was an opportunity fully capitalized.

For any artist who might harbor ambitions of keeping their dignity intact over the long haul: You could a learn a lot from these guys.

1 comment:

Stephen R. Wolcott said...

Loved Bryan Ferry back in the day. Took the wife to see him at the Kodak Theater some years ago. Class act.