The first time I saw Bryan Ferry perform live was in the late 1980s. I’d met the man backstage at the Perth Entertainment Centre, having wagged school for the second time that week to try and encounter him.
I was excited to have gotten the star’s autograph, have a photo taken with him (self-taken, mind you, way before selfies were coined), and to have received front-row tickets to his show, from his hand to mine.
For the record, Ferry also offered me fashionable footwear tips upon my commenting on his stylish choice of shoes that day. “The rest of your outfit can be simple,” he said, “but your shoes should always be of absolute quality.”
Here I am now, some 34 years later, wearing flip-flops and shorts, and sipping wine out of a plastic cup at Bryan Ferry’s concert on the green. No, the irony was not lost on me.
As Ferry has gotten older, so have I, and so has my appreciation for his music matured. Back in ’85 I was familiar with his hit Let’s Stick Together, and two or three schmaltzier songs from his band Roxy Music. Now I hear those ballads for what they really are: gorgeous, classic love songs, not only devoted to important others in Ferry’s life, but to the joy of life itself. The decadent life, usually.
Simply lip-synching to lyrics like “nothing lasts forever, that is true” or “yesterday, well it seemed so cool” made you feel, well, cool again.
Sure enough, Ferry delivered each of his hits and more in the style of a seasoned cabaret performer, kicking off with The Main Thing (from Roxy Music’s eponymous LP Avalon), then confidently but casually delivering ’80s favourite Slave To Love, before continuing with early tracks like Out Of The Blue, Oh Yeah, and Ladytron.
The music, being bass-heavy for the most part, caused Ferry’s vocals to occasionally get lost in the mix and, unless you’re a fan who knows all the lyrics, keeping up with the sentiment of each song proved difficult, especially with the added strange acoustics of sky and trees, and noise-level restrictions in the heritage surrounds of Kings Park.
It was when Ferry moved into his and Roxy’s absolutely huge numbers, such as Love Is The Drug, More Than This, Same Old Scene, and his cover of John Lennon’s Jealous Guy that the crowd really related to the suave ol’ dude on stage. Simply lip-synching to lyrics like “nothing lasts forever, that is true” or “yesterday, well it seemed so cool” made you feel, well, cool again.
Speaking of cool, Ferry’s nine-piece band was as slick as they come, most of the focus being on the silhouette of Australian saxophonist Jorja Chalmers who’d look as much at home in the pages of Vogue as she did playing one of the more familiar instruments in Bryan Ferry’s repertoire.
Indeed, Ferry seems to be getting increasingly infatuated with the genre of jazz. He even released an LP in 2012 called The Jazz Age and certainly wasn’t hesitant to play snazzy vocalist for the majority of this show.
But while the artist’s taste for vintage has grown, his appreciation of pop, or at least the delivery of it, appears to have waned. By the end of the show, when his most famous single Let’s Stick Together was finally being performed, things started sounding a little too karaoke.
Fans might also be disappointed that Ferry didn’t perform Editions Of You, which he’d reportedly been closing his show with so far on this world tour.
Still, it’s good to have ticked another box on my list of ‘Classic Icons I’d Like To See Perform Live Before I Die’. And I’m fortunate enough to have ticked this particular box twice.
Bryan Ferry continues his Australian tour, playing Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne on Tuesday 26 February, followed by ICC Sydney Theatre in Sydney on Friday 1 March, and ending with a Day on the Green show at Sirromet Winery, Mount Cotton on Sunday 3 March.
Tickets are available at www.frontiertouring.com/bryanferry.