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Only a month after writing about the release of Bryan Ferry’s 1974 Albert Hall concert, last night I found myself back in practically the exact same seat I occupied 46 years ago, watching Ferry, midway through the first of three concerts, step into a cone of light to deliver “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” with just the guitars of Tom Vanstiphout (acoustic) and Chris Spedding (almost subliminal Telecaster) for company.

I thought about a recent conversation with my friend Caroline Boucher (once of Disc & Music Echo), who remarked on the extra-special quality of Ferry’s singing on his 2007 album of Dylan covers, Dylanesque. He’d recorded “Don’t Think Twice” five years earlier, on Frantic, accompanied by Colin Good’s piano. Last night’s version was very different: almost unbearably tender in execution and spirit, it formed a pair with the Dylan cover that followed it, “Make You Feel My Love” (which was on Dylanesque). When he launched the familiar roar of “Hard Rain” half an hour later, it was tempting to think of Ferry as the Bard of Hibbing’s most interesting interpreter.

“Don’t Think Twice” was the point at which the concert pivoted away from its opening sequence of a dozen non-hits into the drive towards the encores. Highlights of the first half for me were the unstoppable groove of “You Can Dance” (from Olympia), the slinkier seduction of “Your Painted Smile” (from Mamouna), and the glorious shifts from minor-key verse into the deceptively sunny Europop chorus of “Hiroshima” (from Frantic).

The second half was the formula beloved of Ferry’s wider audience: “Avalon” and “Dance Away”, “Love Is the Drug” and “Street Life”, “Hard Rain” and “The ‘In’ Crowd”, “Virginia Plain” — still a stunning piece of pop art, worthy of his mentor, Richard Hamilton — and “Editions of You”, all delivered with style and energy. Throughout, Ferry received exemplary support from his dozen musicians, notably Neil Jason on bass guitar, Luke Bullen on drums and Jorja Chalmers — Louise Brooks dressed as Catwoman — on various saxophones. If this was a last night out before the coronavirus shuts everything down, then it wasn’t a bad way to finish.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Simon Medaney #

    Dear Richard. I’m looking forward to your McCoy Tyner tribute….. Simon

    March 12, 2020
    • Honestly, Simon, I don’t know what to say about McCoy (not for want of feeling, obviously). But I’m about to listen to some Coltrane Quartet stuff, so maybe…

      March 12, 2020
      • GuitarSlinger #

        Phew … damn ….. I get what you’re saying Richard .

        Its kind of like … if one knows Tyner’s music … there’s nothing else that needs to be said .. his music says it all .. in spades …

        …if one does not .. then about the only thing I could say is for them to get their posteriors out to their local record/CD store and grab every McCoy solo album and everything of Trane’s he ever laid his hands into they can find .. and then delve head first into a McCoy Tyner marathon listening session … hopefully on a quality system

        ( as I type McCoy’s ” SuperTrios ” is playing on my very melomane system )

        As for Bryan’s concert being a good way to step into the void that COVID19 is creating . I could not agree more . Bryan Ferry … THE voice of pop rock in my never ever humble opinion .

        March 12, 2020
  2. Anne #

    I think the audience at Friday’s gig were of like mind, Richard. I would describe the atmosphere as ‘feverish’! Bryan and cohorts on excellent form and great energy in the room. If that’s his last performance, I’m glad I was part of it.

    March 14, 2020

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