As sons of County Durham farm labourers turned lounge lizards go, Bryan Ferry has long been party to the same old scenes. At the opening night of his new solo tour, his grown-up, dressed-up fans rush to the front for the disco segment of his set, silver hair glinting in the stage lights as they film their idol on their cameraphones. But before the Monday night knees-up, this gig is far more restrained, the 72-year-old Ferry spending time at his piano stool, blowing kisses to the upper tiers.
This persona fits Ferry’s enduring image. Even though his band, Roxy Music, daringly soldered together experimental sounds and pop excess, Ferry is considered a tasteful sort thanks to his smooth 80s crooner incarnation. His band tonight fit this mould, offering stylish musical support in black stagewear: nimble-fingered punk guitarist Chris Spedding, noirish viola player Marina Moore and saxophonist Jorja Chalmers are particularly impressive, the latter slinking around under a precision-fringed bob straight from a 70s Roxy single sleeve. Ferry’s song choices early in the set are darkly sophisticated, too, several pulled from the cover version albums that flood his back catalogue. His take on 1930s musical standard Where Or When is particularly good, new depths being added to the lyrics by his ageing, wavering vocals. “Some things that happen for the first time,” he croaks touchingly, “seem to be happening again”.
Proceedings plod after a while, though, and there is a palpable tension in the room. It’s alleviated by an energetic romp through Re-Make/Re-Model from Roxy Music’s recently reissued debut album, and a slowed-down torch-song take on 1982’s More Than This (reanimated on the 2003 Lost in Translation soundtrack). Still, the show only really roars into life with the opening saxophone blasts of Love Is the Drug, five songs from the curtain call. Hereon in, the gig is glorious: Virginia Plain, Let’s Stick Together and Editions of You all sounding fantastic as the crowd finally exhale. Ferry comes to life, too, all loose-limbed and parading. If only these slinky sirens had wailed a little earlier, and a little louder.