Live Review: Bryan Ferry is Pure Magic on UK Orchestra Tour

Published on November 4th, 2013

_MG_9172Bryan Ferry performing on his first tour of the United Kingdom in more than five years

IPSWICH, ENGLAND – The Regent Theatre at Ipswich, painted in light blue with an elegant ambiance, had the feel of a smoky lounge as a small orchestra played on with eccentric, but familiar melodies.

Despite the obviously brilliant skill on display, the audience seemed to be reserving their applause. But an ordinary orchestra performance this was not. This was the Bryan Ferry Orchestra, and Mr. Ferry himself was expected on stage any minute.

Anticipation hovered in the room while notes from an enormous saxophone seemed to keep time with the ticking clock. The arrangements, derived from the catalogs of both Ferry and Roxy Music, glistened with the elegance heard in The Great Gatsby, the motion picture for which this orchestra provided the score.

The man who at once embodies passion and sophistication emerged just when his rapturous vocals were needed for a bouncing “The Way You Look Tonight”.

Sauntering up to the microphone, he wore an intricate floral-patterned evening jacket, unsurprisingly a custom item from Louis Vuitton. His charcoal hair was swept up and back into an impossibly luxurious style for a man of 68 years.

Bryan Ferry triggered awe before he even sang the first note.

Here at the Ipswich Regent, Ferry was beginning the third show of his first UK tour in more than half a decade. Live Rock Journal attended this and the three performances that would follow in Cambridge, Leicester, and Oxford to find a singer still possessed by rhythm with an unyielding magnetism.

His distinct appearance should come as no surprise. While his compositions piled on sales certifications, his panache has earned him accolades in GQ. The Roxy reunion several years ago was undoubtedly significant, but it’s always been difficult for the press and public alike to focus on anyone other than Mr. Ferry.

Aside from creating his first tour with an orchestra, the singer promised an eclectic mix of songs celebrating his 40 years of making music. And he delivered.

Ferry acted as both conductor of a thirteen piece band and as curator of his musical catalog, weaving the audience through orchestral climaxes, then driving rock rhythms, then soft-spoken ballads, then back to orchestra arrangements once more.

His voice, in all its haunting power, would hold remarkably consistent for the duration – more than two hours.

One moment he inhabited broken-heartedness for “Jealous Guy”, whistling its memorable refrain with gut-wrenching emotion.

In another, he swung his arms wildly to the insistent beat of “Love Is the Drug”.

Ferry was at his best when threading the needle between the film noir jazz theme and his moody compositions. On “NYC”, one led right into the other as if he had planned it when writing Mamouna twenty years ago.

Never did he stop insisting on the power of nuance, at one point running his fingers down his pant to leave them trembling at his ankle as a song ended. At most three audience members could have possibly caught the dramatic movement given the angle of the stage. But this was no matter to a consummate professional like Ferry.

At its end, the show became a celebration of a career so diverse it was impossible to think one Bryan Ferry is behind it all. People began dancing with abandon in the aisles to “Casanova” and didn’t stop until the evening’s final notes rang out.

Time and time again he challenges himself with ambitious changes in musical direction, daring his audience to follow along.

They always do.

It might be the only thing predictable about Bryan Ferry.

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