What's On

Your guide to everything in North East

Bryan Ferry looks forward to returning to Newcastle City Hall in May

The Roxy Music singer loves the venue where he saw many of his music idols and is hoping to provoke a standing ovation

Bryan Ferry
Bryan Ferry

Despite having spent the best part of half a century living somewhere else, Bryan Ferry still thinks of his native North East as home.

The 69-year-old singer, who remains the ambassador of sharp-suited über-cool for many, will play a date at Newcastle City Hall in May, and is looking forward to returning to Tyneside.

“The City Hall is a fantastic place. It always has a wonderful atmosphere...especially when they stand up at the end,” he says with a smile and accompanying eye glint.

“I saw many of my musical heroes there - Jimi Hendrix, Ella Fitzgerald, Modern Jazz Quartet, Count Basie...all kinds of people. It was a big part of my life growing up and studying here and starting doing music here.”

Ferry is talking during a trip to Newcastle in which he took in some of the BBC 6 Music Festival, which successfully planted itself (together with a myriad live music and accompanying events) on Tyneside back in February.

As well as enjoying some of the opening gig at the O2 Academy Newcastle - Mogwai and The War on Drugs were honoured with his presence - the Washington-born singer also took to the stage for a chat with fellow Wearsider Lauren Laverne the following morning in The Cluny II, and was keen to reminisce about other venues he’d loved as a teenager.

“Even when I was at school, I used to work in the tailor’s shop on the high street to get my pocket money and I would spend it on records - usually at Windows of the Arcade in Newcastle - or going to the New Orleans Jazz Club.

“I’d sit for about five hours with one small beer,” he laughs.

“Club A GoGo was also a great place - especially on a Thursday night. I saw great R&B artists there and I played there myself with The Gas Board [the band he put together while studying at Newcastle University’s fine arts school, which included then trumpeter and now acclaimed film-maker Mike Figgis].”

Of course, although he began his music dalliances while still living on Tyneside, it wasn’t until after leaving that he began to embrace it as a career.

“I think I was hungry for new experiences - not only going to London, but also going abroad. To the US especially. To go on tour for the first time to America with Roxy Music was a great thing.

“New York was always a great beacon for me. I lived there for a short while, but when I started having a family, I thought the home country was the best place to bring them up.”

Bryan Ferry
Bryan Ferry

Since Roxy Music’s eponymous debut album was released in 1972, Ferry has continually to peppered the long-player section (or whatever the downloading-kids are calling it these days) with both releases from the band and as a solo artist.

He has also mastered the art of blending original music and what he calls “ready-mades” - cover versions of recordings by artists he admires.

So as we heard him sing songs we’d never heard before on LPs like The Bride Stripped Bare (1978), Boys and Girls (1985) and Mamouna (1984), we have also enjoyed his interpretations of the familiar within releases such as These Foolish Things (1973) and Dylanesque (2006).

In 2012 Ferry was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to music, and in the same year the French government decorated him with the honour of Officier des Arts et des Lettres. (How he has managed to fit in a career as what I can only imagine was an immaculately dressed French postman is beyond me, but there you go.)

His current and critically applauded album, Avonmore mixes things up further, offering eight new compositions and two covers as well as the talents of collaborators including Johnny Marr, Nile Rodgers, Ronnie Spector and Mark Knopfler.

It could be said that this, together with the announcement of a 20-date tour to promote it (which in turn came off the back of debuts at the Glastonbury and Coachella festivals in 2014) is a pretty good indicator that his approaching 70th birthday - which falls on the date of my very own 40th if anyone is remotely interested - will likely not see any downward curve when it comes to workload.

It’s the aforementioned tour which brings Ferry to Newcastle City Hall on May 17.

An “incredible set” of both Roxy Music and solo hits as well as songs from his latest release is being promised, and when you’re dealing with someone who has a track record and back catalogue like Bryan Ferry (although clearly there is nobody other than the man himself who fits that description), you’d be downright silly to doubt it for a second.

Bryan Ferry plays Newcastle City Hall on May 17. Call (0191) 277 8030 or visit www.newcastlecityhall.org to book.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer