Saturday, 26 October 2013
Review of Bryan Ferry at the Lowry Theatre in Manchester, October 25, 2013
It all seemed a bit of a nuisance to Bryan last night.
He'd spent the afternoon tweeting from Manchester art gallery during the afternoon while the rest of us dodged the Salford thunder storms and sipped Old Speckled Hen in the theatre foyer.
Then he sent out his seven-piece, black-tied jazz band for 15 minutes to play Jeeves and Wooster versions of some his best-loved songs. So we got novelty 1920s arrangements of Do The Strand, Slave To Love and Avalon with no sight nor sound of the man we'd paid to see sing them. Very irritating.
Eventually out he strolls, lean, weary and resplendent in a flowery dinner jacket and loosely fastened bow tie, with an understated nod of acknowledgement to the Lowry's packed and purple audience.
He approaches the microphone centre stage and opens his mouth. But, horror, what comes out is not the rich and creamy sound of Roxy Music, but a frail and fragile whisper, barely audible above the band, so wheezy at the high notes that it sounds as though the microphone might have a loose connection. It didn't improve much as he ploughed through an uninspiring set list.
For such a veteran professional, he also spent far too long with his back to the crowd facing his lady drummer, as though this was the soundcheck rather than the performance. Then he walked off stage in the middle of one of many horrible and hairy guitar solos, abandoning us to suffer its unwelcome duration on our own.
Things got worse when Bryan returned with a misjudged tribute to Charlie Parker. We all sighed and sank in our purple seats wishing he'd done a tribute to more Bryan Ferry songs instead.
We did get his version of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and a crowd-pleasing Oh Yeah - lots of groaning at the end - before he sent everyone off to the interval toilet queues whistling Lennon's Jealous Guy.
It was all a bit flat, not helped by the killjoy Lowry usher in the red tee shirt who urgently wobbled over to instruct a paying customer to stop pointing her mobile phone at Bryan, a quaintly Canute-like stand against the digital tide.
Things did warm up a bit in the second half, his two-and-a-half backing singers dancing a joyful charleston in sparkling green, Bryan sneaking on stage to sit behind an electric piano, until finally the stalls crowd rose to its feet for the triumphant Love Is The Drug and Let's Stick Together, with its glorious one-note sax-blast opening.
But where was the between-song banter, the warmth, the joy of playing to Manchester's Ferry faithful? It was a messy, soulless, disconnected gig rather than the "Evening With" promised on the ticket.
At the end he waved and blew kisses and returned to the mic to quip, "So i guess I'll see you again tomorrow."
Not if I see you first, Bryan.
On stage: 8pm
Interval: 9pm for 20 mins
End: 10.25pm after a one-song encore.
Stalls ticket: £67