Royal Albert Hall - Mon 7th Oct

This is LONDON 08/10/02 - Music & clubs section Ferry a slave to self-love By John Aizlewood, Evening Standard GIG REVIEW: Bryan Ferry at the Royal Albert Hall, 7/10/02 Still the arch-Narcissus, Bryan Ferry began alone on stage behind his piano and continued as if he were brimming with ideas, adding a single musician for each of the next five songs, including an ice-cold run through Bob Dylan's Don't Think Twice It's Alright. Afterwards, a curious Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, where he affected a lisp, the remainder of the 11-piece band joined him and Ferry promptly ran out of ideas. As befits a man whose recent Frantic album was the first he'd earned a writing credit on for 15 years, his essential problem is sloth. He simply can't be bothered to engage. As if the whole evening were built around Ferry not being forced to sweat, he refused to project and to invest emotionally in his work. Certainly those looking for clues to Ferry's inner turmoil regarding his recent marital difficulties will have left unrewarded, as his performance was more hibernation than catharsis. His movements were non-committal, robotic bobbing. He limited his between-song banter to unintelligible mutterings. And, as if bored by the burden of having to perform for 90 minutes, he wandered off stage to allow the band to indulge themselves in a plodding instrumental, returning only with a change in suit. So far, so insulting. While he clearly takes himself and his personal grooming very seriously, little last night indicated that he feels the same about his art. Aside from his stage presence and a show that, despite the excellent band (including superlative backing vocalist Sarah Brown), seemed small and cowed, Ferry, somehow, is hardly a lost cause. However sloppily Ferry presented it, the Frantic material, especially the haunted Fool for Love, was mostly splendid. The sound and lighting were woefully prosaic, but his vocals remain idiosyncratically endearing and his choice of song rarely faltered. He cherry picked both his ever-stuttering solo career - a clattering Boys & Girls - and Roxy Music, reprising Do The Strand 29 years later. He even managed the whistling segment in Jealous Guy without losing dignity, although he should never again be allowed near a mouth organ. The solitary encore for a rather dispirited crowd encapsulated Ferry's wobbles. A dreadful assault on Shame Shame Shame, once a soul standard, was preceded by a gloriously re-affirmation of Let's Stick Together. Oddly, both were covered on the same Ferry album in 1976. Odder still was how one man could give so little.

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