Bryan Ferry – review

The Lowry, Salford
The Bryan Ferry Orchestra tears in to Ferry's songbook, remodelling both beloved and unknown tunes and inspiring him to thrill

Roxy Music are rightly recognised for their futurism, but Bryan Ferry has always had a nostalgic streak. On the band's 1972 debut, Brian Eno's synthesiser mingled with Ferry's laments for Humphrey Bogart and lost Hollywood glamour. Lately, though, the singer has allowed his nostalgic yearning free rein. For 2012's The Jazz Age, he assembled the Bryan Ferry Orchestra to unexpectedly reimagine Roxy classics in roaring 1920s style. A radical reworking of Love Is the Drug even charlestoned its way on to the Great Gatsby soundtrack.

Here, the black-tied BFO give Do the Strand, Avalon et al the Cotton Club treatment before Ferry enters, his stripped-down croon through 2010's Reason Or Rhyme providing a surprise. Who knew that beneath the production fog of 2010's Olympia album lurked one of his best songs in years? Moments later, when the banjo player picks up an electric guitar and the upright bass player swaps to a regular one, it becomes the cue for a mammoth rock/jazz remodelling of Ferry's catalogue, featuring two drummers, trumpets, a tuba and trombone. A sublime Carrickfergus is sprinkled with mandolins. Roxy's Out of the Blue finds an unlikely meeting point between sci-fi glam and colliery brass band. A Song for Europe – which receives the evening's first standing ovation just after the interval – sounds as if the brass players are trying to blow the song's despair right out of the building.

With his floral smoking jacket and slightly unkempt mop, there's a Byronesque air about Ferry as he tears into his songbook's twin obsessions of glamour and melancholy. Whether it's first night nerves or something more personal, the newly single 68-year-old is audibly putting every emotion into these new interpretations.

He sings Jealous Guy exquisitely, but mostly shuns the more obvious hits in favour of homages to Charlie Parker, songs which suit the treatment (Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Casanova), and a gloriously reworked clutch from 1978's solo zenith, The Bride Stripped Bare. Even smashes such as Love Is the Drug and Let's Stick Together are given a whole new oompah-oomph. By the time he reaches a blistering Editions Of You, the usually ice-cool singer is enjoying himself so much he virtually dry humps the electric piano. You wouldn't expect any of this from a veteran star who could easily rest on his many laurels, but is instead re-presenting his oeuvre in a new and thrilling way.

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Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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