Edinburgh Playhouse - The Scotsman - Tue 6th Mar

Bryan Ferry At The Edinburgh Playhouse

The Scotsman

IT'S not an obvious combination at first. One is a poet whose songs helped spearhead the American civil rights and anti-war movements in the 1960s. The other is a floppy-haired Englishman who fronts the new Marks & Spencer menswear range.

But Bryan Ferry last night had the Playhouse in raptures with an entertaining show liberally sprinkled with Bob Dylan covers. Given the Roxy Music frontman's current tour is geared to promote his new solo album, Dylanesque, the set list was hardly unexpected.

What was surprising was the way he was able to take legendary tracks such as All Along the Watchtower, famously covered by Jimi Hendrix in 1968, and stamp them with his own unique style. This is, of course, what any good artist should strive to do when covering a song. To make an exact copy is pointless. They must instead reinterpret and repackage the track and try to make it their own.

While singing The Times They Are a Changin', Ferry plays the harmonica and there the similarities with the Dylan end. Accompanied by a world-class group of eight musicians and two backing singers, he takes the 1964 protest song and turns it into a glorious wall-of-sound extravaganza.

If anything, it sounded almost too polished and professional, with Ferry's clean-cut vocals lacking the soul of the original. To suggest he had improved on Dylan's version would border on the sacrilegious, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

The same was true of his renditions of other famous Dylan songs. Ferry isn't the first person to cover Knockin' on Heaven's Door, he won't be the last either, but his interpretation is certainly well worth a listen.

What with the works of the legendary folk rocker taking up most of the evening, along with other classic songs like Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Ferry devoted very little time to his own compositions.

Although he got behind the piano for When She Walks in the Room, diehard fans would notice the absence of Slave to Love. This was doubly confusing considering T-shirts bearing the slogan were on sale in the foyer.

The solo hit which drew the biggest cheers was the brilliant Let's Stick Together (another cover, naturally), during which one of the backing singers proved a more than worthy substitute for Jerry Hall.

Later this year, Roxy Music will release their first album for a quarter of a century. This perhaps explains why last night's show was all about Ferry. The Sunderland-born star is nothing if not a great showman and the atmosphere at times resembled that of a stadium concert.

While the sweat poured off his head, he was handed a rose from one of the many enthusiastic women in the audience - a sure sign of his enduring status as a sex symbol.

But for a show dominated by Dylan, it was interesting that Ferry chose to end it with the words of another great songwriter - John Lennon. Released as a tribute following the former Beatle's death in December 1980, Roxy Music's version of Jealous Guy provided the band with their only No.1 hit. No wonder Ferry enjoys doing covers.

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