Saturday, 23 November 2013

Bryan Ferry at the Royal Albert Hall, London - 04/11/13

As part of his most recent UK tour, Bryan Ferry returned to London a fortnight ago, for a unique 'Evening With' performance at the Royal Albert Hall. The concert comes almost a year after the release of The Jazz Age, a record that offers a unique approach to both Roxy Music's catalogue and Ferry's solo work, with a collection of songs recorded instrumentally by the Bryan Ferry Orchestra. The album is an intriguing listen in that it features such an eclectic track listing, from the classics ('Love Is The Drug', 'Slave To Love') to the arguably not so predictable ('Just Like You', 'The Only Face'), all the while remaining authentic to the inspiration that is the basis for the album - the jazz sounds of the 1920's, which not only defined the era, but has proved a major influence on music in years since.

The Bryan Ferry Orchestra opened the two-hour set with 'Do The Strand', which effortlessly progressed into a further selection of instrumental tracks from The Jazz Age. Ferry then joined the musicians for a slick, fast-paced rendition of 'The Way You Look Tonight', which, along with 'Avalon' were early favourites in this initial part of the set. Though the orchestra sounded fantastic in the intimate surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall, it was the appearance of Ferry's tour band who kicked in midway through 'Reason Or Rhyme', that added a heightened intensity and excitement to the music. The addition of the band and the timing in which they entered into the song, was a key moment of the evening, and an enticing indication of what was to come.

Backed by both bands, Ferry then eased into the rhythmically smooth 'Don't Stop The Dance' and 'Oh Yeah', two tracks which have become setlist regulars in past tours for good reason. This gig was no exception, as both songs saw the crowd take to their feet, appreciatively clapping in time to the music.  'A Song For Europe', complete with a poignant, but beautifully extended piano intro was another key moment of the evening. The set was heavily dominated by covers, with Ferry performing four Bob Dylan tracks, two of which feature on 2007's Dylanesque album, though 'Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right' was by far, the most memorable of this selection.

The latter half of the gig felt more consistent, with a steady flow of fan-favourites keeping momentum high in the venue. 'Jealous Guy', 'Love Is The Drug' and 'Stranded' were the most notable crowd-pleasers of the night, but my personal highlight was 'Take A Chance With Me', a rarity from 1982's Avalon. Perhaps the only less than stellar track was a stripped-down rendition of 'Casanova', which lacked the impact of the studio version that appears on Country Life.

Overall, Ferry delivered a generous setlist that was finely structured to include just the right balance of material from The Jazz Age. Though the orchestra were a welcome addition, the duration of the gig was quite rightly owned by Ferry and his outstanding tour band (guitarist Oliver Thompson, especially), who, as in previous tours, demonstrated great musicianship throughout.