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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."

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Monday, April 4, 2011

Roxy Music then. Rusty Mucus now.


Recently I scored a couple of tickets to Villa Maria's Auckland Day on the Green series, Roxy Music concert.  The Muttonbirds were the support - and as it turned out, the best thing.

Now, I am an older punter and was lucky to see Roxy Music way back in 1975 at the Auckland Town Hall - at the height of their popularity, and Country Life was the latest album. This was after they had ditched Brian Eno, and had acquired a young Plexiglas violin player Eddie Jobson. The violin was Plexiglas, not Eddie. He also played keyboards.  And apart from him, it was the classic lineup of Phil Manzanera on guitar, Andy McKay on sax, Paul Thompson on drums and ... one of the many faceless bass players who dropped in and out of the band over their career.

I was 19 and most of the audience were not much older - we knew all the songs by heart, and Bryan was greeted with rapturous applause as he sashayed on stage in white dinner jacket, bow tie and pink carnation.  The show was superb, with all the hits - Mother of Pearl, A Song for Europe, In Every Dream home a Heartache, Virginia Plain, Street Life,  Do The Strand (local reference by Bryan: "New Zealanders or Chinese!")  SFX: Crowd goes nuts - Applause Whoop Whistle!!  etc. 
The sound was perfect, the venue was intimate enough and Bryan interacted in a slightly shy but awkwardly endearing way.  It remains one of the best concerts I've ever seen.

Fast forward ... Bryan Ferry In Concert, Auckland Civic Theatre circa 2004. 
Mr Ferry is on tour with a bunch of shit hot backing musicians doing old Roxy Music songs plus a few of his own originals. But .. no atmos.  Bryan doesn't acknowledge the audience, the band plays with workmanlike skill and verve, but the reality is more like watching a DVD.  Interestingly, Bryan has a guest lead guitarist (can't remember who) dressed nattily in a brown suit, who collapses on stage about 1/3 into the show. I first notice when I see the brown suited axeman lying completely motionless on his back, guitar still strapped across his chest.  I thought 'Now is that some kind of minimal Zen Guitar Hero move, or is there something wrong?'  He was quickly dragged offstage (guitar still in place) feet dragging on the boards, whence medical people did emergency recuss stuff in the wings.  Clear!  Bzzzzzttt!!
Meanwhile, The Show Goes On - Bryan says nothing at all.  There is no mention in the press the next day.  For all I know, Mr Brown Suit may have been flown back to Blighty, dead as a doornail, in a pine box crossing airpaths with  the replacement axeman flying in on Air NZ for the rest of the tour.

Faster forward ... A lovely late summer evening at Villa Maria's sprawling Mangere estate. The Muttonbirds have just played a crisp and memorable set of their hits. I have had some superb wine and food supplied by the sponsor.   The sun goes down.  Lights go up ... ta dah! 
Roxy Music is onstage.  Bryan has let a bit of grey show at the temples and looks like a tad older Edward Fox on the (very few) video screen shots.  For some reason - the original band (Phil, Andy, and Paul) all have kind of musical stunt doubles.  So there is an extra lead guitarist, sax player and drummer.  What the?
So the old guys go thru the motions on each song, but often hand over to the young thrusters for the hard bits.
Also there are three lithe women whose only job is to do ethereal jazz ballet dancy stuff, silhouetted against the back screen.  Normally the Video screen shows close-ups for the cheap seats people like moi who are miles from the stage - but this time the vids are all hippy pre-recorded swirly patterns and visual distractions, rather than a good look at what's happening onstage.  Bryan is again, hugely unengaged with the audience.  he may have said 'Hello Auckland.' but that was it. No song intros or friendly banter.  Just the obligatory 'name the band members' before the big finale. Then turn up the lights, we bugger off and wander back to try and find our cars in the gloomy park.

Phil also runs wine tours in Auckland New Zealand.  Gosh.  Who'd have thought? http://www.insidertouring.co.nz/

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