In 1975, not long after his first solo gig, Rolling Stone called Bryan Ferry “a man of many manifestations”. Forty years later, a certain image of the Roxy Music co-founder as a sharply tailored nightcrawler whose husky croon still sets knees trembling has solidified. But there’s still something slightly unknowable about Ferry, even as he approaches 70.
The Jazz Age, his 2012 album of Roxy Music material transposed to a crackly 1920s setting, was an eccentric left turn, not least because he didn’t sing a note on it. There’s no flapper jazz tonight, though Ferry dips into his most recent album, Avonmore. It’s as musically dense and sleek as anything he’s made, even if most of the songs he plays, including Driving Me Wild and Midnight Train, are as lyrically straightforward as their titles.
Backed by a nine-piece band that seem split between younger hipsters and preternaturally talented older hands, the relaxed yet regal Ferry rattles through 26 songs with barely a breather for small talk. Slave to Love brings the swoon, but Smoke Gets in Your Eyes shifts the atmosphere from appreciative genuflection to something hungrier.
Ferry is at his most exposed on Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright where, backed only by piano, it’s possible to reflect on how that voice – which always sounded old before its time – has matured. There’s also a special guest spot for his old collaborator Waddy Wachtel, who adds some distinctive guitar to Can’t Let Go and the countrified come-on He’ll Have to Go.
It is a polished, moody performance, even before a run of Roxy Music hits that transform the last 40 minutes into a borderline riot as fans crowd the stage. Some of the knees might have been creaking as well as trembling, but it emphatically proves there’s life in the old fox yet.