Bryan Ferry at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 14 December 2011

Went with my friend Jon to see Bryan Ferry last week.  Great venue, the Shepherds Bush Empire.  Medium size, standing on the ground floor. Plenty of bars. You can see the band close up and enjoy a beer. And the atmosphere is always good.

I’d seen Roxy Music at the O2 – the Dome – in February this year, with Jon and another friend Dave. We are all massive Roxy fans from the seventies.  A time when Roxy were just out there, radical, innovative, unlike anyone else. And the fantastic thing about the O2 concert was that the re-formed band – with Ferry, Manzanera, MacKay, Thompson all there (no Eno) – delved into those classic years.  They even played “In Every Dream Home A Heartache”, which I think must be the greatest Roxy Music song.  And “Amazona”, whose rhythm has been sampled by Ice-T, the rapper, for one of his great tunes,  “That’s How I’m Living”.

The music was brilliantly played, the songs were spot on. Maaaaaan…. they finished with “Virginia Plain”, “Love Is The Drug”, “Editions Of You”, “Do The Strand” and “For Your Pleasure”.  For us fifty-somethings, this was absolutely perfect. The original Roxy classics, brilliantly delivered.

The majority of the crowd at the O2, though, were just a generation below.  This became clear when, after an amazing start when the band worked through some seventies classics, they turned to the eighties. The crowd erupted: “Same Old Scene”, “Avalon”, “Jealous Guy”  (the John Lennon song which Ferry took over, whistling and all).

The set list of that O2 concert is here with a click. Setlist.fm link to the songs as well.  A great service.

The eighties touch was something that Bryan brought into his solo concert.  There was a wonderful range of songs from all eras.  But the eighties provided the bedrock – “The Main Thing”, “Slave To Love”, “Don’t Stop The Dance”, “Oh Yeah” “Avalon”, amongst others. We diehards got some seventies treats, like “If There Is Something” off the first “Roxy Music” album. And we had “Love Is The Drug” towards the end.  I was happy.

Ferry looked great in his black suit and white shirt, which he changed to black half way through. The hair, still jet black, must be dyed, but he remains the epitome of cool.  He always wore a suit better than anyone else, and had the best haircut, and I think he still does. His band were superb musicians. They included Chris Spedding on guitar – the man of whom it is said, he played guitar on the Sex Pistols’ “Never Mind the Bollocks”. He looked uncomfortable, but rocked.  The other guitarist, the younger man, Oliver Thompson, looked good and rocked. The star though was Jorja Chalmers, who did the Andy Mackay thing, with an array of wind instruments.  Played with an acute feel for the spirit of Roxy.  And she looked like a Roxy Music woman, with her smart bob and stylish outfit. Perfect!

The concert ended on a real high. “Love Is The Drug”, a rousing “Let’s Stick Together” and a moving “Jealous Guy”. The encore was ‘Hold On I’m Coming”, an old soul classic, and then a Velvet Underground special, “What Goes On”.  Impeccable choices.

It was all more than I was hoping for.  I thought there’d be loads of new stuff, from the album “Olympia”. It’s not a bad album, and we got a couple from it, but Bryan had figured out his audience and given us a lovely spread from throughout his career.  It really was a joy.

What’s so good about the likes of Bryan Ferry, and Paul McCartney, who I also saw recently, is that they have come to terms with their past, have taken ownership of their back catalogue, and are playing their classic songs with pride and adventure. It is giving new life and texture to those songs.

It’s giving nostalgia a good name!

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love outside work: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. And anything else that I happen to think is worth writing about!
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4 Responses to Bryan Ferry at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 14 December 2011

  1. Heather says:

    I endorse all you say. I also saw Bryan & co at the 02 in Feb but much preferred the Shepherd’s Bush Empire – much more cosy and we had a great view. Bryan looked really happy himself, and it has to be said that there are very few artists of a certain age who have played so many global dates this year and delivered everything and more that he has. Congrats on the CBE too! He is style personified, and I love the way he maintains his mystique and doesn’t crave publicity. Epic!

  2. Jon E. says:

    John – I’ve been pondering our outing to see Bryan, and in particular what it is about him that continues to compel. (As I mentioned at the time – though I think you were nodding off with all that lager – I’ve seen him play live in each of the last five decades. That makes me feel very old.)

    Bryan’s charm is that he doesn’t seem very old at all, to an almost sinister degree. The Dracula of Adult-Oriented Rock? Discuss.

    First, and most predictably, his fiancees or wives. Amanda Lear? Born in either 1939, 1946 or 1950. (And wonderfully enough, either as a girl or a boy. Allegedly). Jerry Hall, 1956. Lucy Helmore, 1960. And the newly-minted Mrs. F, Amanda Sheppard, 1982. Remake, remodel?

    Next, his looks. Or his look? He actually looked oddly middle-aged when he was young. (In fact, in the centre spread of the peerless FOR YOUR PLEASURE, most of the Roxies look like they’re dressing up in their daughters’ gear.) So he’s gone from looking 35 when he was 25 to 45 when he’s 65. This is deeply impressive, and of course profoundly enviable. It’s not even Photoshop, though I think it might partly be lighting? (I caught a glimpse of him in the half-light at the Empire, with his facial muscles relaxed, and felt I’d strayed into Dorian Gray’s attic,)

    Another part of his genius is his knack of assimilating younger generations into his world. (And not just his wives.) So son Isaac – from whom, outrageously, he swiped the new Mrs. F. – is in his session band, together with that boy genius of a guitarist who looks like he’s skipped Scouts to come to the gig. Bryan poses with teenage boys in his H & M Christmas ads, and doesn’t look their grandpa AT ALL; and men from 40 to 80 (I count myself as one, believe me) continue to see him as a paragon of cool.

    And as Heather says, the older he has become, the more he seems at ease with himself. John and I were talking about him and McCartney the other day, saying that both seem to have gone through that phase of having to prove themselves with every new album, and are now just as proud to salute their (magisterial) back catalogues as to treat us to their latest noodlings. In that regard, I have to say that Bryan’s standards have remained very high indeed. Not so Macca? But that’s another discussion…..

    So, good on you, Bryan. Here’s to plenty more happy decades ahead.

  3. John S says:

    Now that is a good comment Jon. You should blog! Didn’t know the new wife had gone out with his son. That’s unthinkable, thinking about it!

    O Mother of Pearl, I wouldn’t trade you for another girl….

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