Born of out London in early 1971, art rock troop Roxy Music and their principle singer/songwriter Bryan Ferry ushered in the early beginnings of the counter-charge against the nation’s waning interest of the now tired ‘Swinging Sixties’. Dropping the herbal temptation and inner-politics that embroiled that decade, Ferry and his group became leviathans of the charts. 44 years on – an acclaimed solo career behind him, national respect that spans leading figures including Prince Charles and Noel Fielding (he was Noel’s dad once you know..), an unquenchable creative thirst that continues to push his music into darker realms – and Ferry takes to Manchester’s Palace Theatre once more.
‘Driving Me Wild’ – opposing the hackneyed allure of the 69 year old, it drove itself through the seismic impact of Ferry’s 10 strong backing army with distortion laced solos edged against the challenging stylings of brassy grooves – ‘Loop De Li’ – the stage awash with shimmering red illuminations, the 80s air guitar, that became a prominent feature of many Ferry pieces, burst against the blocking piano to generate a voluptuous undertone throughout – and ‘Midnight Train’ – with the glittering disco ball dropped, the suppressed excitement of the crowd neared its climax – all demonstrated the frustrated identity that persisted within his latest offering ‘Avonmore’; a more personal collection of tracks that creates a soundtrack befit for damaged individuals looking for buoyancy.
Ferry’s vocals are often downplayed; such is the significance of the compositions he creates. But even as he enters the twilight years of his career, his voice has preserved its characteristic resonance. ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ – rearranged to intimately allow Ferry to cruise across the crushing piano, it relapsed back to it’s original Bob Dylan condition as his folk harmonica cut from out of the deadened melancholia – ‘Avalon’ – relaxed and similar to its initial Roxy Music conception, the hushed chants from his three backing singers allowed Ferry to smooth across the loose meanders of his group – and ‘Take A Chance with Me’ – piercing clarinet that again adds to not only the diversity of Ferry’s sound, but the energetic aura needed to kick-start the audience back into life – all brought a deftness to proceedings.
There were so many important moments; the instinctive, impromptu blues session that gave each supporting character within the entourage their chance to voice their lines upon their instrument; the ambience created through ‘Virginia Plains’; ‘Do the Strand’.
Within an instant of Ferry’s former group’s principle track ‘Love Is The Drug’ – lined with the darkened saxophone melodies the 70s were accustomed with, it remains Ferry’s foremost composition that still retains its anthem like chorus and hustling shifts throughout its groove crafting verses – the space became awash with Ferry aficionados; maddened woman misplacing their wits; new-age couples spinning loosely around one another; students reigniting nostalgia; an experience befit for all natural music fans. This was followed by his chief solo hit – albeit a cover of Wilbert Harrison – ‘Let’s Stay Together’; another tracks that stands alongside the likes of Duran Duran and The Human League on any ‘Now That’s What I Call Another Familiar Compilation Randomly Shuffled For You Guessed It Profit’, it concluded the celebratory aura permeating throughout the theatre. Icily his rendition of John Lennon’s ‘Jealous Guy’ defrosted the finishing atmosphere.
Ferry has earned his place within the hearts of Britain; it can often be forgotten how integral his work is with the generation defining murmurs of mid 70s pop revival. Conserving the same weathered suits that have become his trademark; his trivialized, recognisable vocals; sheer conflicting excitement that blends passages of wrenching heartache with sanguine, spirited melodies; Ferry continues to promote the values of understated showmanship unfamiliar to many of his modern contemporaries.
Words by Clive K Hammond