Earlier this week, Roxy Music announced plans for a 50th-anniversary reunion tour that will feature core members Bryan Ferry, Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera, and Paul Thompson. The 13-date tour kicks off Sept. 7 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto and wraps up Oct. 14 at the O2 Arena in London, with a stop in between at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 12.
Roxy Music broke up 1983 after wrapping up a world tour behind Avalon, the most successful album of their career. They reunited in 2001 to commemorate their 30th anniversary and giggled sporadically for the next decade. (Founding keyboardist Brian Eno left the group in 1974 and didn’t participate in any of the reunion shows.) They attempted to cut a new album in 2007, but it didn’t go very well.
“Bryan has always been the key in terms of lyrics and vocals,” Mackay told Rolling Stone in 2019. “I think that at that time doing a whole album’s worth of lyrics was kind of a challenge. He didn’t really feel it was going the right way for him, so he wanted to work on some material that he had. … And then we all got distracted off in different ways.”
The band’s most recent full concert took place on March 6, 2011, at Auckland, New Zealand’s A Day on the Green festival. They didn’t announce a breakup, but Manzanera told Rolling Stone in 2014 that they weren’t going to continue. “I think our job is done,” he said. “When we stopped touring in 2011, Andy [Mackay] and I looked at each other and said, ‘Our job is done here.'”
He said the reasons weren’t very complicated. “Musicians like to do new things,” he said. “It’s unfortunate for the fans, really, because they would like you to play the same old stuff forever and ever. And they go see it and they feel like, ‘Man, they aren’t as good as they used to be.’ I’m very happy doing new things.”
Their sole performance since 2011 took place at their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. Brian Eno and Paul Thompson didn’t show up, but Ferry, Mackay, and Manzanera played a six-song set with members of Ferry’s touring band. Check out video of “Avalon” above. Background singer Tawatha Agee, who toured with the group in the early Eighties, does an amazing job on this one. The background musicians for the upcoming tour haven’t been announced, but Agee was a part of Ferry’s most recent solo tour and let’s hope she’s back for this next Roxy run.
It’s also unclear who will play bass. The band went through an absurd number of bassists during its original run, and longtime Pink Floyd associate Guy Pratt played on the latest Roxy Music tours. But he’ll be on the road with Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets in September. A safe bet might be Neil Jason. He played on Avalon and was brought back into Roxy world for Ferry’s 2019 Avalon tour.
Roxy Music have always been more popular in Europe than America. Even at the pinnacle of their fame, they never played larger venues in New York than Radio City Music Hall or the Palladium. Their sole Madison Square Garden concert took place on Dec. 8, 1972, and they were opening up for Jethro Tull on the Thick as a Brick tour.
“The show opened with Roxy Music, another British band that attempts to fuse disparate elements into an original whole,” reads a New York Times review of the show. “For their New York debut they were given only 25 minutes, as against Tull’s 130.
“A first impression of Roxy Music suggested a blend of neo‐fifties rock and synthesized weirdness, compromised by an uncertain, pretentious stage image,” it continues. “[Ian] Anderson’s routines work at least to the extent that they evoke an audience response. Roxy Music’s timid choreography, doggedly executed in the face of the crowd’s benign indifference, could look only embarrassing.”
It’s taken 50 years, but that “pretentious” band that faced “benign indifference” from Jethro Tull fans is finally returning to MSG as a headliner. That’s a pretty amazing triumph.