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Review: Bryan Ferry at Newcastle City Hall

It was a triumphant return to home turf for Bryan Ferry as he seduced his audience with a blend of old and new

****
Matthew Becker Bryan Ferry on stage at Newcastle City Hall
Bryan Ferry on stage at Newcastle City Hall

It was a hall packed with people who have spent much of their lives wishing they were even a fraction as cool and sexy as Bryan Ferry.

Or that their husbands were.

The Washington-born singer will be 70 in September but if he has lost a fraction of his coolness and sexiness, then it was pretty hard to see from the balcony.

Actually, it was pretty hard to see from the balcony.

This was a gig that largely shimmered through a haze – generated, perhaps, by a premature release of atmospheric stage smoke or by the steamy expectation of an adoring crowd.

From our perch up high we peered and craned.

With Ferry, it’s all about black (the musicians) and scarlet (the backdrop), the shadowy colours of seduction – which added to the challenge for those up high whose eyes are not what they were.

But there he was. The former Roxy Music man appeared on stage like a silhouette, a cut-out from a fashion mag that never fell victim to fashion’s foibles.

Matthew Becker Bryan Ferry on stage at Newcastle City Hall
Bryan Ferry on stage at Newcastle City Hall

No need for words. Verbal interaction with his audience on Sunday was minimal. The gestures are the thing, though, subtle but effective, the left hand resting at the top of the thigh, the right signalling the end of a number with a deft overhead flourish.

All this, of course, when both hands are not fondling a mic to which he likes to get a bit too close.

For much of the time, truth be told, you can’t understand what on earth Bryan Ferry is actually singing. The words are noises, insinuations, bluesy grunts and thrilling tenor warbles.

But the music picks you up and carries you along, rich instrumentals interspersed with songs full of feeling – and words you can’t quite catch.

The new single, Driving Me Wild, came early on, as did the brilliant Slave to Love. They could have come off the same album, except the former is from Avonmore, just out, and the latter from Boys and Girls, released in 1985.

There was Bob Dylan’s Dream, recorded for Amnesty International, and more new stuff from Avonmore, an album likely to appeal to all those who have followed Ferry from Roxy Music and beyond.

Backed, as ever, by a great band, including a statuesque sax player who could have been a cover girl on an old Roxy album, Ferry warmed to his task and for many in the hall the concert really began with the encore.

Matthew Becker Bryan Ferry on stage at Newcastle City Hall
Bryan Ferry on stage at Newcastle City Hall

Love is a Drug got them on their feet and they stayed there, through Virginia Plain and the famous cover of Lennon’s Jealous Guy.

By now the disco ball was spinning, the stage had become bathed in summer colours and the joint was jumping.

Even from the balcony, you could see Bryan Ferry smiling as he and we bopped away. The only difference between us? In the feverish atmosphere, he still looked cool.

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