Live Review: Bryan Ferry Electrifies San Diego with Roxy Rhythms

Published on April 24th, 2014

_MG_0123Bryan Ferry performed in San Diego, California on Saturday, April 17th at Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay

SAN DIEGO, C.A. – Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay, one of California’s most beautiful venue offerings, has the look of a backyard concert.

White chairs in rows of 15 or 20 resemble the seating arrangement at a ritzy southern wedding. Wine and gin are the beverages of the evening.

And Bryan Ferry is the musical entertainment.

Circling through the venue uncovers a quiet yet palpable excitement in the crowd. Talk to anyone and you’re bound to hear from either a Ferry concert veteran with 10 or 12 shows on their belt, or a lifelong fan who is about to see their first.

His tours in the states are few and far between, turning each rare concert on this 2014 West Coast tour into a veritable fan convention. It’s not uncommon to suddenly find oneself in a conversation with a stranger about whether Boys and Girls or Bête Noire is the better solo album.

Ferry’s absence has created a backlog of concert conversations just waiting to be had.

But all those chatters wrap quickly when the lights dim to find the man in question not center stage at his standing microphone, but off to the corner at his Nord Electro keyboard. It’s an unconventional start.

It should be awkward, but it works.

Then suddenly, Ferry leaps to the front with a surprising urgency as a familiar bass and drum combination commences. On “Kiss & Tell”, he finds his groove quickly, serving up its cocktail of raspy vocals and sultry rhythms. At 68, his dance moves are precise as they were in its 1987 music video. A simple hand-to-fist clap never looked so elegant until Ferry made it his de rigueur.

The song’s guitar solo fed directly into “Slave to Love”, setting the venue awash in its lush yet haunting keyboard arrangement. At this point, it seemed Ferry was zeroing in on a night of his solo hits.

Wrong.

Perhaps in an effort to woo Coachella hipsters during his two nights spent there, he built his set around signature (and rare) selections from Roxy Music, his art rock outfit which went on to inspire nearly every band in its wake.

The results of Ferry rebuilding the Roxy catalog without any of his band mates some 40 years later? Simply spectacular.

Each song worked – from a downright spooky “Ladytron” to the thumping dance beat of “Both Ends Burning”. The obvious skill of his backing band surely helped. But what’s really at work is charisma and presence.

Humphrey Bogart had movie screens, Ferry has the stage.

The custom, floral print Louis Vuitton smoking jacket which earned rave reviews of its own during the tour of his home United Kingdom last fall has followed him across the pond. Its pattern and colors are so elaborate it’s hard to imagine anyone else pulling it off.

Although he was out-dressed by no one, his band kept it classy with their wardrobe and musicianship. The saxophone solo during “If There Is Something” was downright sizzling.

Per custom at a Ferry gig, the show’s second half found the venue turning into a lively affair; the aisles filling with people.

Kicking it off, the stammering “Casanova” never sounded so good with a faster tempo and fatter instrumentation.

It’s surprising how a catalog as esoteric as Roxy Music seamlessly becomes a soundtrack for cutting the dance floor (or a grassy lawn, in this case).

Ferry briefly turns back to his solo career to close the show as he whistles the refrain to “Jealous Guy”.

Did he just end the show whistling? Did he really just pull that off?

Indeed he did.

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