Chicago - Thu 21st Nov

Thumbnail - Click for a larger version

Bryan Ferry at The Chicago Theatre Chicago Sun Times November 21, 2002 BY LAURA EMERICK STAFF REPORTER Stronger Through the Years," a track off Roxy Music's "Manifesto" (1979), also could serve as the motto for frontman Bryan Ferry. While his British rock contemporaries have died (Marc Bolan), disappeared (Syd Barrett) or descended into irrelevance (David Bowie), Ferry has soldiered on with his unique brand of glam-rock balladry. At its essence, the Ferry formula sends lovelorn cries soaring over swirling synths. His worldview, expressed in typically baroque Ferry style, reaches its zenith on "I Thought," the last track from his latest solo disc, "Frantic": I thought you'd be my streetcar named desire/Your man, the one you seek/I thought you'd be that flame within the fire/One dream that just won't die. But the dreams were aflame, both ends burning, Tuesday night at the Chicago Theatre, when Ferry, as usual a slave to love, trotted out his arsenal of romantic obsession. Song by song, he stoked the fury, beginning with "The Only Face," which he crooned solo as he accompanied himself on piano. Members of his nine-piece band trickled out for each successive number, finally coalescing to create the full Roxy soundscape on "The Thrill of It All." Joining him onstage were original Roxy drummer Paul Thompson and Ferry's longtime cohort, guitarist Chris Spedding, who along with keyboardist Colin Good anchored the band, which sounded as good as Roxy did in its prime. For the 90-minute concert, Ferry crammed in 21 songs, mostly from his solo career, and three (!) costume changes (he's perhaps the only 6-foot-plus hetero guy who could wear a blue satin suit and not look like a drag queen). But the concert remained an eclectic affair, and given Ferry's recent estrangement from his wife of 22 years, it was tempting to view the set list as a commentary on his failed union: Dylan's "Don't Think Twice," "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," "My One and Only Love," "Fool for Love," "My Only Love." But not, unfortunately, the ultimate Roxy sigh of resignation, "In Every Dream Home a Heartache." His current bout of lovesick blues triggers memories of "Jerry Dumps Ferry" headlines, when Jerry Hall left him for Mick Jagger (guess the laugh was on Mr. Big Lips), and the very public breakup inspired Ferry's solo disc "The Bride Stripped Bare" (1978). (He's now reportedly consorting with his backup singer Katie Turner, who looks like his estranged wife, only 30 years younger.) From "Bride," Ferry performed the traditional Irish ballad "Carrickfergus" (I would swim over the deepest ocean/Just to see my love before I die) and followed it later with another traditional lament, the mournful "Ja Nun Hon Pris," written by Richard the Lionhearted (yes, that one), which Ferry adapted for "Frantic." But underneath the melancholy beats the heart of a lion, a king of the beasts on the battlefield of love, and Ferry chose to emphasize that warrior spirit with fearless versions of "Love Is the Drug" and "Do the Strand," which closed out the concert. Donning fuchsia-colored Vegas showgirl costumes, with ostrich-feather headdresses, his singers cavorted onstage along with their Fearless Leader on the finale. The pink plumage added just the right touch of decadent excess, and at 57, Ferry can still manage to rock out without looking ridiculous. His voice sounds as wonderful as ever, whether crooning standards like "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" or battening down the emotional hatches on the funk-flavored "Cruel." A singer in the tradition of German cabaret and French chanson, Ferry's vibrato-heavy style owes much to Edith Piaf, the Little Sparrow, and the old roue himself, Maurice Chevalier. Saving the best for next to last, Ferry and company capped off the evening with an out of the blue "Wooly Bully," as they embellished Sam the Sham's Tex-Mex original with lounge lizard cool. As the third and finale encore, "Let's Stick Together" reminded fans why 30 years later, Ferry still matters. With percussionist Julia Thornton barking out the song's trademark yips, Ferry answered with blasts on his harmonica before delivering the coup de grace with the song's refrain: "You know we made a vow to leave one another never." And amen to all that

Previous Article | Next Article