At 73, Bryan Ferry remains a rakishly dashing front man, every bit as debonair as he was during Roxy Music’s glam rock ‘70s heyday. At a nearly sold-out show at Los Angeles’ Greek Theater on Thursday night (Aug. 29), Ferry created an atmospheric, enchanting evening of music, dipping into songs from the band’s 1972 debut through his solo sets. He seldom spoke to the audience other than to say thank you and introduce 1978’s “Can’t Let Go” by saying he wrote it in Los Angeles (which almost explains why a Brit is name checking Canoga Park in song).
Here were the five best things about the concert:
“In Every Dream Home a Heartache”: The creepiest song in Roxy Music’s canon details the protagonist’s relationship with an inflatable doll: “I’ll dress you up daily/and keep you till death sighs.” Bathed in dark green light, seated and accompanied only by keyboards, Ferry delivered a version of the song sinister and slinky until it exploded into a cacophony of sound Chris Spedding’s crashing guitar. The evening’s most chilling performance sung to a spellbound, silent crowd.
“Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”: Ferry first recorded the song on 2007’s Dylanesque, an album of Bob Dylan covers, and in the dozen years since, it’s taken on the feel of one of his own compositions he seems so comfortable delivering it. Same with show closer, “Let’s Stick Together,” the Wilbert Harrison tune Ferry first recorded in 1976. Both allow Ferry to show off his considerable harmonica chops and to the delight of the audience, at the end of a ferocious solo on “Together,” Ferry held the harmonica at shoulder level and dropped it—his perfect version of a mic drop.
Ferry’s Band: Composed of musicians who have played with him for decades and others who are new additions, the 9-piece collective provided flash when needed—Spedding, new guitarist Tom Vanstiphout and saxophonist Jorja Chalmers were particularly combustible—while never showboating or pulling focus from Ferry. Ferry couldn’t stop grinning at them all night.
Avalon: The 23-song set contained seven songs from 1982’s Avalon, Roxy Music’s final studio album and its best seller in the U.S. The songs have stood up remarkably well, especially “More than This,” one of the most romantic songs ever written; as well as the dreamy title track and hypnotic “ While My Heart is Still Beating.” Nearly 40 years after its release, Ferry delivered the album’s material with fresh conviction.
“Love is the Drug/Do the Strand”: Throughout the evening, an engaging but low-key Ferry toggled between standing center stage and sitting at keyboards before turning the last two numbers before “Let’s Stick Together” into something akin to performance art. Standing at the microphone and wrapping a scarf around his neck with a striking flourish, he dramatically gestured, his graceful arm and hand movements choreographing a modern ballet of sorts as he sang. During “Do the Strand,” he became ever more animated, leading the audience in broad handclaps and practically playing air guitar at one point to bring the show to a brilliant crescendo.