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Roxy Rocks Ohrid

July 20, 2006

By Jason Miko

Whoever would have believed it? If you had been in the center of Ohrid town on Saturday morning, July 15, walking past the coffee bar Slavica, you would have noticed — if you could have even recognized them — the members of Roxy Music: Bryan Ferry, Andy Mackay and (session musician) Guy Pratt. They were enjoying a coffee, or as was the case with Andy, a delightful Skopsko beer, in this ancient Macedonian town on the water. Stranger things have happened in life, but in this case, Roxy Music coming to Ohrid means that Macedonia is, after all, just another European country that the band had not played to before.

And play they did. Roxy Music rocked out the Ohrid Sports Hall on Friday night, July 15, to some 2,000 excited fans, including President Branko Crvenkovski and Prime Minister in waiting Nikola Gruevski.

Roxy Music’s creator and front-man, Bryan Ferry, was of course the main subject of adoring attention from photographers, press and fans alike during the concert. Nevertheless, Ferry was able to take a stroll through Ohrid the next morning relatively unscathed by throngs of fans. This author noticed only two young ladies approach him and shake his hand, such was the mellow demeanor of Macedonia’s vacationers.

The concert, which began at a very Macedonian time of 10:20 PM (it was billed to begin at 10:00 PM sharp), brought down the house right from the opening note. Although some in the crowd did not recognize many of the songs, they dutifully rocked out, happy that such a famous band had actually come to little Macedonia in the first place.

Most did not know to shout out “Virginia Plain” at the end of the eponymous song, but Roxy classics such as Avalon, More Than This, Jealous Guy and Love is the Drug were received with exuberant appreciation, the audience literally thrumming with energy. The band too fed off of that energy and put on a show not to be forgotten. Even El Presidente, Crvenkovski, was on his feet for the last few songs. Roxy came back for one encore and ended with three songs, the last being a Bryan Ferry cover (or interpretation, as he likes to call them) of Let’s Stick Together.

The show was originally scheduled for Ohrid’s distinctive antique amphitheater, but was brought inside owing to predictions of rain which, ironically, failed to materialize. The show the night before, in Thessaloniki, by contrast, was cancelled due to rain. In the early 1980s, the rumor was that there was such a thing as “Roxy weather;” allegedly, rain followed the band around.

Judging by the amount of press and attention before and after the show, this was probably the biggest band to have come to Macedonia in its present state as an independent country. News was broadcast live from the venue while the bevy of photographers plying the small space between the stage and the fans let loose with 10,000 photographic shots. Bryan gracefully recorded an interview, before the concert, for Skopje’s City Radio and Avalon Productions (named, of course, for the band’s last album) liberally plastered the country with posters and television and radio advertisements. If you had dropped in from Mars you might be forgiven for not knowing that Roxy Music was coming.

This author asked Bryan, the next day, if Roxy Music would come back after their ninth studio album was finished (scheduled for next year). Laughing, Bryan changed the subject and asked about Skopje. He is notorious for not commenting on work in progress. But for now, anyway, the Macedonian public’s desire for things Roxy was satiated through 100 minutes of pure, rocking fun last week in Ohrid.

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