Bryan Ferry

April 19, 2014
Santa Barbara Bowl
Santa Barbara, CA

Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Kimberly Annette

At first glance, you can see how Bryan Ferry emits an air of well-suited simpatico and suave temperament — a mix of Hugh Hefner and Mick Jagger with a splash of the Most Interesting Man in The World. Indeed, Ferry’s shirts never wrinkle and he lives vicariously through himself. Even at 68, the singer, whom Sounds Magazine once called “ever-smiling,” bestows an elegant and sophisticated presence that belies the rock and roll stratum.             

Winding up a west coast tour, his first in three years, that included two weekend appearances at Coachella, Ferry stepped out onto the Santa Barbara Bowl stage without so much as a word. That detached coolness (hastened by the natural coolness of the sea air) transcended any doubts that the next 90 minutes were going to be suffused with an exotic blend of rock, R&B, new wave, jazz and electric romanticism.

Certainly no one on that stage was about to outdo the master in terms of style and grace — a pastel smoking jacket hanging firmly to his body, a white open-collared dress shirt, an undone bow tie and the hair, embellished with shades of gray, still, as always, perfect. Yet, Ferry’s eight-piece band was integral to the ultra poise and pounce of the presentation. During the 20-song set, their youthful exuberance and ability at their chosen instrument was pretty much on target for most of the night. What I noticed almost immediately were quite a few different members from the 13-piece band in the Live In Lyon Blu-ray I reviewed.

I recognized only Jorja Chalmers, who plays saxophone, keys and oboe, from the video. Jodie Scantlebury and Bobbie Gordon shimmied and shook and kept the background vocals sweetly scented. Steve Jones played mostly rhythm guitar, while Jacob Quistgaard delivered a few choice mind-blowing leads. There was Paul Beard on piano and keyboards, bassist Guy Pratt (I’d seen him with David Gilmour and Pink Floyd), and instead of the two drummer formation that featured Ferry’s son Tara, one extremely capable drummer named Cherisse Osei kept a solid and spirited beat.

With a different lineup came a different set list, filled with Roxy Music classics, a handful of solo staples and surprisingly nothing written by Bob Dylan. I was sort of disappointed about that because Ferry does a magnificent job interpreting “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and “All Along The Watch Tower.” But that meant he was free to do more Roxy Music, which is pretty much what everyone wanted to hear.

From the opening “Re-Make/Re-Model” to the climactic “More Than This” and “Avalon,” right on through “Love Is The Drug,” “Virginia Plain,” “Both Ends Burning” and an encore of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy,” if you came to hear Ferry play the best of Roxy Music, you were at the right show.

A cover of JJ Cale’s “Same Old Blues” was weaved seamlessly into the set, while solo numbers from the 80s — “Kiss and Tell” from 1987’s Bete Noire and “Slave To Love” from 1985's Boys and Girls — along with “Reason or Rhyme” from 2010’s celebrated Olympia album, were all built on a seismic multi-layer of instrumental fortitude and folly, intertwined with Ferry’s fluttering vocals.

As much as Messrs. Manzanera, McKay, Thompson and Eno were missed, Ferry and his band successfully rebooted the Roxy Music catalog without succumbing to the subterfuge of mawkish nostalgia. Cool cats like Bryan Ferry, constantly in a state of motion and re-invention, are simply above that sort of sentimentality. How refreshing that was!


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