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!