One of England's most revered glam rock bands closed out their first American tour in decades at the Los Angeles Forum Wednesday night, September 28th. The tour was a celebration of the enigmatic group's 50th anniversary. The band last toured Europe in 2011, but except for a few dates before the pandemic, Roxy Music hasn’t toured the United States extensively since 2003.
The evening began with an appropriate opening set by Austin native St. Vincent. Much like Roxy Music, St. Vincent has forged a unique sound within the rock music genre. The performance featured a truncated version of St. Vincent’s recent Daddy’s Home concert tour, including a headline show at the Hollywood Bowl last year. St Vincent (Annie Clark) presented the scaled-down nine-song set, resembling a theater production, complete with stand-up comedy sketches and dance routines. Clark is a mercurial figure in every sense of the word, from her persona to her music. The multi-talented singer and musician is a consummate performer in the vein of Lady Gaga. Clark opened with the song “Digital Witness,” from her 2015 self-titled album that deals with the voyeurism of social media and the admiration we seek from our “audiences.”
The bulk of the set featured songs from Daddy’s Home, which may be Clark’s most personal album, centering around a 1970s New York backdrop. The band was nothing short of phenomenal. Often referred to as the “Down and Out Downtown Band,” it was led by the funkmaster Justin Meldal-Johnsen on bass and featured Jason Falkner on feedback-drenched guitar, Rachel Eckroth on keys, and Mark Guiliana on thundering drums. Meldal-Johnsen’s role as musical director was a perfect fit for the retro-funk grooves on “Daddy’s Home,” given his rich history of producing and performing with Beck. His funk-laden style permeated songs like “Pay Your Way In Pain.” Clark herself led many musical mood changes by playing multiple instruments throughout the show. During the first song, “Digital Witness,” Clark played the theremin, creating a moody science-fiction feel to the opening. Clark also played her signature St. Vincent guitar from Ernie Ball, switching colors to match the moods of different songs. Clark paid homage to Roxy Music several times during her performance, eliciting a roar each time from the crowd. Her creative take on rock music was a perfect segue into the magical performance to follow by the English glam rock legends.
During the break music, fans enjoyed some of the perks of the remodeled Forum, including the swanky VIP club which features a full sumptuous buffet and private bars. The 55-year-old venue is a landmark of the Inglewood community in south central Los Angeles. The original home of the Lakers, the arena has seen decades of legendary sports events and concerts. Holding just shy of 18000 fans, the venue is still one of the largest indoor arenas in southern California. The historic venue was a fitting location to host the 50th-anniversary tour of Roxy Music.
Just after 9 pm, the lights went out in the arena, and a huge cheer erupted throughout the cavernous hall. A tape began to play the instrumental tune “India” from the 1982 Avalon album. Then the four members of the group that played on the first album, including singer and keyboardist Bryan Ferry, saxophonist Andy Mackay, guitarist Phil Manzanera, and drummer Paul Thompson, sauntered onstage to ever-growing applause. They were joined onstage by no less than nine talented backing musicians and singers. A gigantic multi-story multimedia backdrop came to life and the band launched into “Re-Make/Re-Model” from the band’s first album Roxy Music, recorded in 1972. The massive LED backdrop was all the more impressive considering that the night before, the Forum hosted the all-star Taylor Hawkins tribute, which went on until 130am. An army of technicians and stagehands had to dismantle that set to allow yet another army to come in hours later and build the all-encompassing set for Roxy Music. The results were astounding, with a live video mix of the band interspersed with carefully coordinated graphics to create a continuous storyline.
Shortly into the set, the iconic lead singer, Ferry, began to banter with the crowd, explaining the timeline of songs and praising the opening set by St. Vincent. “It's St Vincent’s Birthday,” Ferry shared at one point, which elicited a massive cheer from the audience. Later the beloved singer shared that it had been his birthday a few days earlier.
The bands 18 song setlist drew from seven of their eight studio albums. The group performed three songs from their first record, including “Re-Make/ Re-Model” and “Ladytron," early in the set and added “If There Is Something” later on. The bulk of the set came from two other Roxy Music albums. The 1982 final album Avalon accounted for the majority of the set by far, with six songs, including the album’s title track making it into the performance. Four songs came from the group’s second album, For Your Pleasure, released in 1973. The rock-infused album was a precursor for punk music, and the performance ended with “Do The Strand," a cut from the second album that foreshadowed the punky new wave dance music that would become mainstream a decade later. Many in the cavernous Forum could be seen doing the Pogo dance for this feel-good finale of a concert that was decades in the making.