There was just so much to celebrate.
First and foremost, fans were watching Roxy Music perform its first Bay Area show in over 21 years on Monday night (Sept. 26) at Chase Center in San Francisco.
It was the second-to-last date on the band’s 2022 Northern American reunion tour — which finishes up at the Kia Forum in Los Angeles on Wednesday — marking the 50th anniversary of the release of the game-changing debut album “Roxy Music.”
On top of all that, charismatic frontman Bryan Ferry happened to be celebrating his 77th birthday at Chase Center.
Then, of course, was the setlist, filled with 18 wonderful songs that most local fans probably never thought they’d get to hear this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame act perform live again.
The group — which consists of longtime members Ferry on vocals and piano, Phil Manzanera on guitar, Andy Mackay on sax and oboe and Paul Thompson on drums, as well as several touring musicians — sounded superb as it took the stage and began to rock through its first Bay Area date since an Aug. 5, 2001 show at Concord Pavilion. (The band’s previous S.F. date occurred more than 45 years ago – on June 11, 1977 show at the legendary Winterland.)
Every member of the versatile 13-piece ensemble greatly factored into the overall success of the 90-minute-plus set. Yes, that includes charismatic crooner Ferry– who has received some criticism for his vocal work on this tour, but certainly did an admirable job in San Francisco.
Overall, however, this evening would turn out to the Phil Manzanera show, who delivered one fiery lead after another at Chase Center and underscored yet again that he deserves to be ranked among the best guitarists on the planet.
His playing must have been a revelation for those who mainly know Roxy from “Avalon” – the sophisticated pop outing from 1982 that features some nice fret work, yet hardly ranks as a “guitar album.” Hopefully, it encourage more people to go back and check out the band’s more rocking early albums as well as the woefully underrated guitarist’s solo efforts.
(One person who doesn’t underestimate Manzanera is Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, who keeps hiring the Roxy rocker to play guitar on his solo tours.)
Monday’s show kicked off, like Roxy Music’s first eponymous album, with the rowdy avant-garde number “Re-Make/Re-Model,” which served to announce to an unsuspecting listening world back in 1972 that something very different — and very exciting — had just arrived on the music scene.
From there, Roxy Music ventured into “Country Life” territory for a different, yet still satisfying take on “Out of the Blue,” with Manzanera’s guitar nicely filling in at the end for the famed Eddie Jobson solo on the see-through Plexiglas electric violin.
The band touched upon seven of its eight studio albums. The one left out of the mix, unfortunately, was one of its best — 1973’s “Stranded,” which boosts such all-time winners as “Street Life,” “A Song for Europe” and, especially, “Mother of Pearl.”
Yet, it was hard to feel bad about wasn’t being played since we were so busy grooving to such beauties as “The Main Thing” and “While My Heart is Still Beating,” both of which hail from “Avalon.”
Overall, that 1982 masterwork received the lion’s share of the attention, with Ferry and company performing six songs from Roxy Music’s final studio album.
That makes sense, especially for a North American tour, given that “Avalon” is the band’s only album to reach platinum heights in the U.S. Plus, the “Avalon” material — especially the title track and the moony romantic “To Turn You On” — resulted in some of the best moments of the night.
Yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if Roxy decides to spread the set list out a bit more evenly for shows in its native U.K, where all of its albums were top 10 hits.
The first half of the concert was slightly better than the second, but only because the big Manzanera rockers were mainly found in the former.
“Ladytron,” the best guitar number from the first album, certainly lived up to expectations. “If There Is Something,” another “Roxy Music” offering and possibly the greatest song in the band’s entire catalog, featured even more Manzanera mojo than usual.
Yet, the number that truly brought the house down was “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” — the oddly mesmerizing ode to a blow-up doll from the band’s second album, 1973’s “For Your Pleasure” – which climaxed with a full-throttle, twisting, turning Manzanera lead for the ages.
The second portion of the show focused strongly on the polished pop songs from the later albums, stringing together six such numbers — “Tara,” “My Only Love,” “To Turn You On,” “Dance Away,” “More Than This” and “Avalon,” before changing the vibe dramatically with the revved-up disco-funk of “Love Is the Drug” from 1975’s “Siren.”
Roxy Music closed the show with two of its best rockers — “Editions of You” and “Do the Strand,” both from “For Your Pleasure” — as the fans showered the band with applause.
It was a triumphant return by one of the best bands in rock ‘n’ roll history. One can only hope that they don’t make us wait another 21 years before visiting the Bay Area again.
St. Vincent opened the concert, delivering an enjoyable set that included such favorites as “Cheerleader” and “The Melting of the Sun.”
Roxy Music setlist:
2, “Out of the Blue”
3, “The Bogus Man”
4, “The Main Thing”
6, “While My Heart Is Still Beating”
7, “Oh Yeah”
8, “If There Is Something”
9, “In Every Dream Home a Heartache”
11, “My Only Love”
12, “To Turn You On”
13, “Dance Away”
14, “More Than This”
16, “Love Is the Drug”
17, “Editions of You”
18, “Do the Strand”