August 3, 2017
Bryan Ferry creates dreamscapes. Dark, ethereal, eerie, brooding, a little bit spooky, but not too scary. You're floating in dreamland; maybe you're aware that you're dreaming; maybe not. But it's a really good dream and you know you don't want to leave it; even if you can't quite make out what's happening just beyond those trees, or is that just mist? It's hard to tell. The dreamscape keeps slowly morphing and swirling, but you remain swaddled in that other dimension, not wanting it to end, hoping it won't end, not when you're feeling like this.
Thursday night, Bryan Ferry brought his atmosphere and his 10 piece band through Denver and set a mood. Actually, it wasn't all hypnotic or trance-like. He mixed it up a little bit. As the lead vocalist of Roxy Music, he was obligated (and maybe he even wanted) to dig back into that band's catalog, some of which was notably quirky, such as "Virginia Plain" and "Ladytron," although some other, earlier Roxy Music tunes, such as "Out of the Blue" show those trance-like tendencies.
In 1982, Roxy Music released its last studio album, Avalon
(Warner Brothers). It was a big hit with tunes like "More Than This," "The Main Thing" and the title track with its spacy female background vocals a la "The Great Gig in the Sky" from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon
(Harvest, 1973). The album hits a groove, sets a mood and stays in it for 40 minutes or so. Ferry had recorded several solo albums during his Roxy Music tenure, but his first post-Roxy Music album was Boys and Girls
(E.G. Records, 1985) which, sonically, was a continuation of Avalon
. Bete Noire
(Reprise, 1987) came along two years later and essentially extended the series to a trio of laid-back studies in aural seduction.
It was the sound and feel of these albums that predominated on Thursday night; the compact chords, hypnotic percussion, extra helpings of reverb, a clear, transparent guitar timbre, medium tempos, head nodding rhythms and, most importantly, liberal use of minor keys. Through it all, Ferry, with his suave, debonair manner, presided; overseeing the creation of his audio landscapes and adding the finishing touches with his distinctive quivering vocals.
Now, at age 71, his vocal range is more limited. That was particularly prominent on "More Than This" which has some big intervals. Thursday night, he had to even out the melody to keep it in his more constricted range. Occasionally, he played keyboards, but he was usually front and center with the microphone.
Ferry's style of atmospherics is labor intensive. Thursday night, it took 10 musicians to create the right mood, the right sounds, the right stuff. Two guitarists, two backing singers, bass, drums, keyboards, violin and sax shared the stage for the entire set. Jorja Chalmers on various saxophones was a crowd favorite, but that could have been because of her lithe silhouette as much as her blowing. A notable band member was Chris Spedding
on guitar who is one of those British musicians who's played with a laundry list of notables and even has around 13 solo albums out under his own name. He and fellow guitarist Jacob Quistgaard played a big role in creating the mood and also took turns crafting intelligent, sophisticated solos on top of the flowing grooves.
Ferry has written numerous songs over the years, many of them hits. But he still features covers in his set. A highlight was Neil Young
's "Like a Hurricane" which is one Ferry has been performing since back in the Roxy Music days. The attitude, tempo and structure of that song fit right in with ambiance of the evening. He also covered Bob Dylan
, "A Simple Twist of Fate," the Velvet Underground
, "What Goes On" and John Lennon
, "Jealous Guy."
Like the Avalon album, Ferry has found his groove and he's sticking to it.
Set List: The Main Thing; Slave to Love; Ladytron; Out of the Blue; A Simple Twist of Fate; A Waste Land; Windswept; Bete Noir; Zamba; Stronger Through the Years; Like a Hurricane; Can't Let Go; RemakeRemodel; In Every Dream Home a Heartache; More Than This; Avalon: Love is the Drug; Virginia Plain; Let's Stick Together; What Goes On; Jealous Guy