Bryan Ferry, Beacon Theater, 10/6/11
This was only my second time seeing Bryan Ferry, believe it or not (and I can’t find any documented record of the first time I saw him, more on this later). I bought this ticket without knowing anything about the tour or having heard his new solo album, or even knowing if it was good (it is), but more because at this point I start to worry about ever seeing certain artists. It was an indulgence, and I was prepared to be a little bit of a tourist or an outsider at this show in exchange for being able to see Bryan Ferry on stage and hear him sing live.
I needn’t have worried. The show was way more accessible than I anticipated; when I leave the show thinking, “Gosh, it would’ve been nice to have seen ‘Virginia Plain’,” you certainly weren’t hurting for a solid coverage of hits. I didn’t know about, but wasn’t surprised at, the production values, from the 7-piece band (including Andy Newmark on drums and Chris Spedding on guitar), the 4 backup singers, and two occasional dancers, to the elaborate visuals used as backdrops. While this was a thoroughly adult show, I was glad to see enough weirdness in the first ten rows to make me feel like this wasn’t totally adult AOR land.
I just wanted to spend 90 minutes watching Bryan Ferry live and in person, so the combination of all of the above was like one gigantic, lush treat. I had an amazing seat in the 7th row, the sound was flawless, and the performance was fantastic. And the man in person did not disappoint. Superficially, no one wears a suit like Bryan Ferry, even if it didn’t have gold lame on the lapels and he wasn’t wearing eyeliner, like in those first photos of Roxy Music I ever saw that drew me in initially. He was always some kind of punk rock James Bond for me, playing baccarat in the South of France while listening to the Stooges, or something like that.
Ferry’s instrument didn’t seem aged or weak or flawed, and the selection of songs, again, was completely satisfactory, ranging from Roxy favorites to solo hits: “Kiss and Tell,” “Avalon,” and “Casanova.” There were three Dylan covers, and I had forgotten about the “Watchtower” cover (although it owes more to Neil’s version than Bob’s). Ferry was animated and engaged and appeared to be having a great time with the other musicians onstage. I would have liked a stronger horn section, but, you know, not everyone is Andy Mackay. I would have wished for more songs from the new record, but I always wish for more songs from the new record no matter who I am seeing.
The clincher for me was the closing number, which has, apparently, been his trademark closing number for years: “Jealous Guy”. I had forgotten about the song, almost, and when the opening notes came out of the PA it was one of those moments of recollection and memory, just a tumult of emotion where I was almost snapped back in time to 1981, when that song was on WNEW constantly, when I lived within blocks of the Dakota. Time stood still for a few moments, especially as he stepped to the mic to whistle the bridge. It was surprisingly moving. The encore was yet another cover, “Hold On, I’m Coming,” which of course was carried off deftly and with aplomb.
I was glad I went, I was glad I finally got to see him now, I am thrilled he is still so vital and vibrant and the show is so worthwhile.
Addendum: I am positive that I saw Bryan Ferry at a benefit concert at the Ritz in 1987 or thereabouts, with Johnny Marr on guitar. I cannot find documentation of this anywhere, and it’s possible that one or the other was there, but not both. I found a listing for a SNL performance the two did in December of 87 and that seems like the right timing, I was worried about getting home from a rally in DC the day of the show and literally had to run from Port Authority down to the Ritz and didn’t get to change. All the dates match up but I can’t find a listing anywhere that confirms my memory (or fantasy, as the case may be).
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