The Independent - - Royal Albert Hall, London - Mon 19th Mar

Bryan Ferry, Royal Albert Hall, London
By Ben Walsh
Published: 19 March 2007

"They got some hungry women there/ And they really make a mess outta you," crooned the enduringly foppish 61-year-old on "Just Like Tom Thumb Blues", the first of his many Bob Dylan covers tonight.

"Women! I have no idea. I don't know anything about women at all. They're a complete mystery to me," Ferry once admitted. Judging by the reaction of "hungry" females here, they know a fair amount about this lounge lizard. Small pockets of women kneeled down beside the photographers at the edge of the stage to admire this one-time glam rock god in his black dinner jacket and tie.

This full-house Albert Hall performance was a far cry from the gloriousexperimentation of Roxy Music. This was ostensibly all about Ferry's new album, Dylanesque, which was recorded in a week and includes 11 Zimmerman covers. This pop aristocrat sang nine of them, plus his sublime 1973 version of "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall", but we could have done with a little less of that and some more Roxy. However, we were treated to a gorgeous "When She Walks in the Room" and the Dobie Gray gem "The In-Crowd".

NME's Nick Kent once described Ferry as a "prime contender for the title of Most Unusual English Composer to come down the pike since [Syd] Barrett's days with the Pink Floyd". Not any longer; he's now the most unusual reinterpreter. You wouldn't really have pegged this miner's son as a Dylan fan, and his versions of "Gates of Eden" and "Positively 4th Street" come across as truly peculiar. The anger has been sucked out of "Gates" and the bile extracted from "4th Street", which in Ferry's quavering tones become a wistful late-night lament rather than a deliciously vituperative rant. Oddly enough, it worked.

As did "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", in which Ferry sounded at his most soulful, and also on the sumptuous "Make You Feel My Love", which was mercifully stripped down to his delicate vocals with some unobtrusive backing. It was when Ferry's sizeable band "rocked out" on the likes of "Simple Twist of Fate" and "All Along the Watchtower" that things got tiresome. They sounded like the Pebble Mill at One band and no one does "Watchtower" like Jimi Hendrix so memorably did, so why does anyone bother? Including Dylan.

Apart from the tiny gaggles of women racing up and down the aisles, the audience was remarkably restrained until everyone leapt out of their seat for a resounding "Let's Stick Together" and a joyful "Love Is The Drug".

Ultimately, a vigorous, unusual and reassuringly eccentric set from one of England's unique talents. But time to move on to the next Roxy Music album now, Bryan...

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