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.

• Did you catch this show – or any other recently? Tell us about it using #gdnreview

Contributor

Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Bryan Ferry review – pop enigma still sets knees trembling
Ferry is as relaxed yet regal as ever, even as a borderline riot erupts when he breaks out the Roxy Music hits

Graeme Virtue

31, May, 2015 @10:34 AM

Bryan Ferry: Olympia - review
Slinky adult discopop? Beautiful woman on cover? Songs of heartbreak? Unusual cover version? Dave Simpson finds Bryan Ferry keeping to what he knows best

Dave Simpson

21, Oct, 2010 @10:00 PM

The Bryan Ferry Orchestra: The Jazz Age – review
Bryan Ferry's reimagined versions of Roxy Music hits in the style of 1920 Cotton Club jazz work better than you might think, writes John Fordham

John Fordham

22, Nov, 2012 @9:45 PM

Bryan Ferry Orchestra: The Jazz Age – review
Bryan Ferry lovingly reinterprets his back catalogue in 20s big band style and opts not to sing, writes Kitty Empire

Kitty Empire

25, Nov, 2012 @12:05 AM

Pop review: Roxy Music

Roxy Music,
SECC, Glasgow
Rating***

Elisabeth Mahoney

12, Jun, 2001 @11:00 PM

Article image
Post your questions for Bryan Ferry
As the Roxy Music frontman publishes his lyrics, releases new music and prepares a 50th anniversary tour, he will ponder Guardian readers’ questions

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

19, Apr, 2022 @11:07 AM

Article image
Bryan Ferry review – lounge lizard still at his best on the dancefloor
The Roxy Music frontman’s crooning numbers can be sophisticated – and also dull. It’s when he gets slinky that his tour’s opening night comes alive

Jude Rogers

10, Apr, 2018 @10:25 AM

Bryan Ferry – Olympia: exclusive album stream

The latest solo album by the Roxy Music man sees Ferry reuniting with his old band

guardian.co.uk/music

18, Oct, 2010 @4:03 PM

Article image
Roxy Music – review
Bryan Ferry's ageless cool fails to get the party started, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

26, Jan, 2011 @6:55 PM

Article image
Bryan Ferry recruits Roxy Music for solo album
Singer enlists band-mates on star-studded new LP, featuring members of Pink Floyd, Radiohead and Scissor Sisters

Sean Michaels

13, Jul, 2010 @10:01 AM