Auckland Civic Theatre - Sat 31st Jan

Auckland Civic Theatre
31 January 2004

Bryan Ferry at Civic Theatre


Few rock concerts open with solo harp, but this did. And yes, despite Ferry's reputation as an often languid performer delivering the occasional insipid album, this was definitely a rock concert.

Those who knew Ferry for crooning Smoke Gets In Your Eyes weren't disappointed: smoke did, early on, and later John Lennon's Jealous Guy, Ferry's biggest solo hit, got a fine airing.

But this show had an astute, upward and rocking trajectory and for the final few songs the capacity crowd, upstairs and down, was on its feet. Mr Ferry rocked.

After the harp solo he appeared at piano then took front centre as more musicians were added and the energy levels were relentlessly pumped up.

By the time guitarist Mick Green hit his straps with paint-stripping playing on Cruel (off Ferry's recent, gritty Frantic album) this was a rock show, with a 10-piece band including electric violin and honking sax to prove it.

Ferry's reputation as a sauve, sophisticated guy was undamaged however. Miraculously less grey at the temples than in recent photos, he appeared in an immaculately cut dark suit, an uncommonly narrow tie (wide-tie makers take note) and shoes polished to the sheen of shaving mirrors. Later the tie came off, then during an instrumental break he disappeared to return in another shiny, crisply tailored suit for Slave To Love. He made the effort where others wouldn't bother.

Ferry's vocal range has always been narrow, but he picks and pens diverse material to give his catalogue breadth. Dylan's early songs are favourites - Don't Think Twice and A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall were given solid treatments, but elsewhere there were hints of lounge-jazz, the Great American Songbook and Anglofolk.

But his heart is also in old-time rock'n'roll - he didn't have that saxophonist for nothing - so by the end that spirit was in the air with muscular versions of Love is the Drug and, in the encore, Let's Stick Together and Sam the Sham's old Tex-Mex hit Wooly Bully. Then after Leadbelly's Goodnight Irene it was another enthusiastic, gawky overhead wave and it was goodnight from him.

It was tight and tidy, over too soon at an hour and 20 minutes, and short of a Roxy rocker or two. But a standing ovation from the visibly older audience was the verdict. Won't argue with that.

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