You can hear strains of just about anything you want in Roxy Music: art punk, British new wave, Beatlesque pop, prog-rock, lounge cabaret, American R&B. And you can hear Roxy’s influence (especially that of singer Bryan Ferry) in everything from the hyperactive sing-speech of early Talking Heads to the loungy narcotic warble of the Tindersticks’ Stuart Staples. If you want to get really universal about it (and why not?), you could argue that Ferry has influenced everything from David Byrne’s sound to Gabriel Byrne’s looks.
It was hard not to feel expansive after Roxy Music’s show a week ago Tuesday at the FleetBoston Pavilion (a second show followed on Saturday night) — the first show, said Ferry, that the band had played in Boston in 18 years. From the double-headed imperial eagle on the band’s scrim of a curtain to the high-contrast noirish back-screen projections to the panoramic stage set with its back-line phalanx of auxiliary players (anchored by original drummer Paul Thompson) and keyboards and occasional Vegas-feathered dancing girls, this was glamor.
Original Roxy guitarist Phil Manzanera wore all white at stage right. To his left and slightly behind him, session guitarist (and Roxy fellow traveler) Chris Spedding looked like a supporting cast member from The Krays, in a long dark Edwardian coat and with a high-konked pompadour. Saxist Andy Mackay wore a tapered purplish suit. Ferry wore a black leather suit with open-collar white shirt and then followed up with a series of jacket changes — white for the romantic " A Song for Europe, " silver for the closing rockers.
Over the years Ferry may have lost some of his agility in the upper register, most noticeably on uptempo rockers like " Street Life, " where he doesn’t quite negotiate those angular, ping-ponging intervals with his old abandon. But that’s a minor complaint. Although white as white can be, with a voice that’s always been more awkward than powerful or beautiful, he nonetheless has the soul man’s unrestrained showmanship and romanticism. When he wraps that big woolly baritone around lyrics like " There’s a band playing on the radio and it’s drowning the sounds of my tears, " it’s pop perfection.
The band came out with uptempo dance rock — " Re-Make/Re-Model " and " Street Life " — and though the graying audience (who’d paid $70 a ticket) applauded and screamed, they remained seated. Manzanera was at his flashy best, but it was Spedding, with his raw, note-by-note deliberation on the ballad-tempo " My Only Love, " who took guitar honors, helped out by Manzanera’s slow boil and back-up singer Sarah Brown’s gospel wail. With its mixed repertoire and orchestral arrangements, Roxy Music (whose first incarnation was roughly from 1972 to ’82) have never exactly fit anywhere, but maybe they’re at their best now that they’re truly outside of time.
Show opener Rufus Wainwright was apt, alluding to French cabaret with originals like " Cigarettes and Chocolate, " and American folk with his father Loudon Wainwright III’s " One-Man Guy. "