INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
New Musical Express January 13, 1973 - by Larry Vilaubi
FROM HOLLYWOOD IN GLORIOUS ROXYRAMA
Larry Vilaubi reports on a Roxy Music highlight gig at the old movie capital...
Hollywood, W.C. Fields once said, is the gold cap on a tooth that should have been pulled out years ago. It's the armpit of California full of smog, spare changers, and chrome people. But don't tell Roxy Music that. To Roxy Music, Hollywood was the highlight - nay the apex - of their recently-completed first American tour.
Hollywood's Whiskey A Go Go was the site last week of Roxyrama, a gala gathering of the Hollywood rock clan many of whom were guests of Warner Brothers Records - for a show which featured a juggler, a fire eater and Roxy Music. For the first time in America, the band found themselves on their stage, playing their show for their audience. And they loved it.
The tour hadn't been so good before that night. Not that it was bad, but there are typical problems which confront most, not-as-yet-well-known English bands on their first American tour. Roxy Music had previously been accustomed to headlining concerts; playing for an audience familiar enough, and approving enough of their music to have paid money to see them. This is somewhat different than having to play a thirty minute set to fifteen-thousand Jethro Tull or Humble Pie fans - many of whom are still trying to find their seats halfway through the set - who've never even heard of Roxy Music. But this was the Whiskey; the stage was theirs; and the band, obviously relishing the evening, responded with an enthusiastic, well structured and performed show.
By the midway point of the first set, the audience - many of whom came out of simple curiosity - responded by crowding around the stage in enthusiastic approval (a sight not too often seen in the usually jaded and unemotional too cool Whiskey). Backstage between sets, amid throngs of well-wishers, record company execs and assorted weirdos, the boys discussed their first impressions of America and their tour.
"It's been better than we thought it would be," observed Andy Mackay, saxophonist and oboist, playing bottom billing and all. "It's nice to be in a position of having to work on an audience again," he continued, expressing the rare and beautiful positive attitude which so permeates the group. Major problems facing groups visiting America, are the many huge venues. Built for basketball and ice hockey, the buildings are rarely suited for music.
"It's a pleasure to play in a small place like this," was Bryan Ferry's comment; referring to the Whiskey. "American audiences are conditioned to large places; though, in the large places, because of the size of the audience and the distance, the cruder elements - like Jethro Tull and Ten Years After - go over well. The cruder we've played, the better we've gone over. The subtle things don't go over so well."
"The large venues are a bit different to what we're used to," added Andy. "A great deal more energy on stage is necessary. American audiences are different as well," continued Andy between sips from a tall coke from which he had extracted several cubes of ice to throw at Eno, complaining about the overabundance of ice in American drinks. "They're more loyal to the bands they go to see. It takes a lot of visits to get through to them, but when you do they're great. It's been quite a pleasure getting through a little bit."
Roxy Music are a very sophisticated band; highly intelligent in their approach to music, and very much concerned with the little subtleties of the pure artist. Hence, they are very concerned - as they should be - with the logistics of stage control and the effects that stage presentation have on their music. "The only time we play really well is when we're top of the bill. Our equipment is complicated so we need checking before hand," said Bryan. "Now we're just being thrown an and having to make do."
"I envy rock bands who can move on stage and work very easily in those confines, but I wouldn't want to be one," added Eno, the extremely articulate synthisizist (is that what you call them?). "The only times we haven't been accepted were when we didn't play well - and that was always because of equipment;" Eno continued. "We play complex music which demands sound checks before hand, which we haven't always had. Also affected by logistical problems is the type of song which the band can play on stage. As Eno explains: We've been playing short sets to large places, and that's annoying. You have to condense, so we can't do long slow things. It's difficult to generate a mood. It's amazing how quickly thirty-five minutes goes."
Eno is very conscious of those McLuhanesque concepts of communication concerning the sender and the receiver; the artist and the audience. Hence any means or ploys which the artist uses to more accurately send his message is desirable. "Audiences enjoy the stance we take. Our presentation attracts attention visually, so they listen also," said Eno. "Our whole presentation is rather poetic. Movements and such add interpretation to the music. If we were motionless, our music would be rather vague. Lights are also important. We're looking forward to the next time we come to America, when we'll be doing full sets and have our own lights. In particular, it's fairly important to us to feature people with lights. Without proper lighting it can be confusing as to who is soloing."