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Bryan Ferry At the Beacon Theatre, Friday, July 29th, 2016, Reviewed

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At the age of 70, Bryan Ferry looked immaculate as ever at the Beacon Theatre last night. A sort of suave older man, with his heart on his sleeve as he bossa novas across the stage to the keyboards, the instrument many of us first saw him behind, then a space aged veering into modernism glam rock romantic satire, and then with his back to the audience, egging his band on, moving with a silky knowingness. The years have rushed past us and Ferry changed and changed while remaining absolutely constant. Ferry as Sinatra crooner gave way to New Romantic, to tech teutonic dance masters to, just four years ago, the fully orchestrated remade remodeled jazz band leader. To today, a man escaping nostalgia through misdirection.

But the apotheosis of Ferry’s art form occurred at the two thirds point of his set in support of his current album, business as usual 2014’s Avonmore, a very early song but always clearly a statement of romantic intent, “In Every Dream Home A Heartbreak”, where satire and dependency merge straight into insanity as Ferry sings to a blow up doll:

I bought you mail order
My plain wrapper baby
Your skin is like vinyl
The perfect companion
You float my new pool
De luxe and delightful
Inflatable doll
My role is to serve you
Disposable darling
Can’t throw you away now
Immortal and life size
My breath is inside you
I’ll dress you up daily
And keep you till death sighs

It is the craziness that edges in on Ferry, even today, it is the creepiness of a Charles Boyer, a love so powerful it consumes him. At the Beacon, during a very average 90 minute set for middle aged nostalgia buffs and their husbands, the predictability didn’t matter because Ferry has this way about himself, this body language which moves in smoothness, a twist of his head, a hand movement, a floating heat by the cool, that is a form of human perfection which, in its own ways, recalls other icons, a Fred Astaire or a Cary Grant, in the way in which it personifies a romantic ideal and, lest we forget, an idealism.

Opening was the androgynous and wonderful LP, a great songwriter with a huge voice and intense skill with a song and a metaphor, she performed a very well received 30 minutes of also extremely dramatic pop music arranged for a rock band. LP has a new EP out, Death Valley and she played it for us, more or less, reaching a height on the western whistled “Other People” and the New Wave “Strange”. LP took it all too far but in a good way.

In 2016, Bryan has a talented set of session folks behind him who have no problem being where he wants them to be and though he doesn’t have the vocal range he had, his actual interpretive skills are undiminished. Put them together and you have extremely well played takes on songs he wrote and didn’t write from all areas of his career, but, when you shake up a set list this thoroughly,  the problem will be, what do you play and what do you leave out? And two thirds of the songs were hit and miss. No glammy Roxy Music and no self destructive white Tuxedoed Bryan, instead deep album tracks and Bete Noire Ferry: those over orchestrated blood red lipstick songs from the mid-90s.

An hour of the set, while beautifully crafted and well played, was only OK because the material was only OK. A lovely version of Jerome Kern’s “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” was not specifically superior to “Don’t Stop The Dance” but it sure felt that way, and while I am sure there are fans who are overjoyed by early Roxy tracks like “Ladytron”, my love of Bryan is all The Bride Stripped Bare and of Roxy as  personified on the sublime Greatest Hits package. What price “Pyjamarama”? I’d have given half the songs here for it. Or  the lovey dovey of “Chain Reaction” (absolutely nothing off Mamouna, perhaps his greatest solo achievement), who is Ferry pleasing?

The last seven songs of the evening were a run through of some hits, yes to “Love Is The Drug”, no “Street Life”, yes “Jealous Guy”  and “Let’s Stick Together”, the found in translation “More Than This”, we are flew down to the Rio towards the end and finally we let it happen to us. Set highlight: “If There Is Something”, where Ferry just dances through that bridge. As the MC of the evening, Bryan was charm personified, and also a deeply motivated ladies man, still finding the world revolving around romantic desire and despair. “I would do anything for you, I would climb mountains” he sang and in 2016 it is difficult to see where the neo-futurist lies and the neo-conservative is.

Still, all good and plenty as far as it goes, though a little on the random side. It was a weird set, neither resting on Avonmore, nor a Greatest Hits package, it was more like a fan fave that wasn’t one. He could’ve done better but I don’t mind.

Grade: B

1 Comment

  1. Diana on July 30, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    Excellent article about one if my all time favourite mega stars.

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