Bryan Ferry @ The Ryman Auditorium 8-2-16 [part 3]

The tour is almost over… and hopefully this review, too!

The tour is almost over… and hopefully this review is too!

[…continued from previous post]

After the delightful non-intermission, the full band came onstage to the strains of “Take A Chance With Me.” Surprisingly, the band didn’t trim off any of its luxuriant sound but the substantial guitar riffs of Manzanera that were the icing on this particular cake, were curiously absent. This night, keyboards were the dominant note in its flavor, strangely enough.

The next song was another “crown jewel. ” Those would now come at a rapid pace in the second set. “Re-Make, Re-Model” vies strongly with “Ladytron” as being the best tracks on the startling debut album and the bold strokes of this number fit more graciously with the somewhat bombastic feel of this particular band. By this time the crowd were all on their feet, which was a blessing, since the parsimonious pews which constituted seating in the Ryman Auditorium [the building was initially built as a tabernacle in 1892] were simply torturous to my 6’3″ frame. I was unable to sit straightforward in my seat, so I welcomed the “SRO” aspect of the show.

Then the dark heart of “For Your Pleasure” was offered. “In Every Dream Home A Heartache” was always a stunner, and here was another early song that the lack of subtlety from this touring band didn’t hurt, but actually enhanced.  Phil Manzanera still owns this one though. I could not help but wonder if the set list this evening was in any way shaped by the fact that this was Ferry’s first date ever in the Music City. A glance at the rest of the setlists reveals that Nashville got a few more numbers than some dates, but the inclusion of “Dream Home” was actually common to all US dates on this tour leg… but not the Canadian ones.

Then I got to hear my favorite song from “Roxy Music.” Oh, there are other, better songs, but there’s just something about the queer, yet burningly intense “If There Is Something” that captivates me the most from that album. Any song that can begin as a country hoedown yet reach for patently ludicrous signifiers of devotion as “growing potatoes by the score” as it heads for a fevered summit after a desolate middle eight is pretty unique in the world. Alas, Ferry’s instrument is no longer quite capable of reaching the peaks of intensity that this song benefitted best from, but I appreciated the try in any case. I never thought I’d hear this one in my lifetime.

Then the last eight songs hit like a freight train, enlivened by the inclusion of an “Avalon” staple that, surprisingly, rarely ever got played by Ferry or Roxy Music. That would be “More Than This.” I found it hard to believe that I was hearing it, but Ferry gamely gave it a go, even as his voice simply cannot reach those gossamer high notes on the familiar LP. He was almost doing a sprechtgesang take on the number, which was kind of interesting. Then…Boom! “Avalon.” Vocalist Bobbi Gordon nailed the delicate tones of Yannick Etienne’s original performance admirably well here. Boom! “Love Is The Drug.” Boom! “Virginia Plain.” The crowd were going wild here and Ferry left the stage for all of 15 seconds before the encore hit: a new record for me.

“Let’s Stick Together’s” sassy chug was last heard by these ears on the “As Time Goes By Tour” but this band tonight were perhaps more suited to the greasy R+B than the ostensible jazz band we saw in Las Vegas. “Jealous Guy” still plucked the heartstrings, though Bobbi Gordon’s solo on the coda was perhaps a misstep. The last “crown Jewel” this evening was the show closer par excellence “Do the Strand” though this evening it was deemed the penultimate song with “Both Ends Burning” serving as a fitting finale.

Bryan Ferry | Nashville, TN | Ryman Auditorium | Aug. 2, 2016

  1. Avonmore
  2. Driving Me Wild
  3. Slave to Love
  4. Don’t Stop the Dance
  5. Beauty Queen
  6. Ladytron
  7. Oh Yeah
  8. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
  9. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
  10. Bête Noire
  11. Zamba
  12. Stronger Through the Years
  13. Tara
  14. Take a Chance with Me
  15. Re-Make/Re-Model
  16. In Every Dream Home A Heartache
  17. If There Is Something
  18. More Than This
  19. Avalon
  20. Love Is the Drug
  21. Virginia Plain
  22. Let’s Stick Together
  23. Jealous Guy
  24. Do the Strand
  25. Both Ends Burning

That’s a pretty long setlist, and I think few could find fault with it. Some may express disappointment with the diminished voice that Mr. Ferry brings to the table these days. I can’t go there because it’s his voice. His life. I find the frailty it exudes could conceivably enhance his songs, which are usually pretty long on the bitter melancholy, but a Sinatraesque “Wee Small Hours Of the Morning” show does not seem to be in the cards for Mr. Ferry, and I find that a bit of a shame. Where this show disappointed was in the denial that it secreted by the fact that Ferry was surrounded by a brace of musicians half his age or less, with only long-term stalwarts Fonzi Thornton and Neil Hubbard being of his peer group.

Instead he chose to surround himself with blazing youth and perhaps more energy than these songs benefitted from. The house sound was on the loud side, though not the worst I’ve heard. The staging was perhaps the most bombastic element of all with the lights being overstimulating in the way that only computer-controlled varilites can be. Ferry will be 72 next month. I think that it would have been much more special if he had behaved with that truth on the table.  I guess a part of me is still disappointed that Ferry has not moved to the next level yet. Unfortunately, for him, I’d say that Paul Buchanan had got there first a good 30 years ago. When I first heard The Blue Nile I was confident that I’d heard the band that managed to leapfrog Roxy Music and I still hold to that thought today.

Ferry has the tunes. He has the artistic point of view, but I’d like to see him enhance his songs with more truth and yes, mortality. Imagine a setlist by this man where he did not have a ten piece band of kids onstage rocking out to a flashy light show but a handful of carefully chosen veterans who could invest these songs with all of the devastating feeling that we know he’s capable of. My favorite Ferry show is still the “As Time Goes By” tour that I saw in 1999 that was largely an arm’s length away from being a rock show and all the better for it.  His “Avonmore” album closed with a delicate, almost painfully vulnerable cover of “Johnny + Mary” and I was certainly hoping to hear that humber this evening but after seeing that show, I know why that did not happen. Had he sung that song it would have been massacred by the his band, who were incapable of the delicacy that all but makes this performance. Ferry sounds like he might blow away at any minute. Give me a deeply lit stage with this man and a handful of musicians capable of exploring such delicacy, and I’ll gladly sign up for another tour of duty with Mr. Ferry. As it stands, this final Ferry concert gave new meaning to the words bittersweet.

– 30 –

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4 Responses to Bryan Ferry @ The Ryman Auditorium 8-2-16 [part 3]

  1. Taffy says:

    Very similar setlist to the Boston show I saw (we got Editions Of You but no Do The Strand or Both Ends Burning…so I’d say you came out a bit ahead). Unlike you, I had no prior Ferry or Roxy live experience to compare it to, so I was more than happy with everything, ten piece band of kids and busy light show included! Frankly, just seeing and hearing him warble his way through so many classics thrilled me to no end. To be honest, in a world without Bowie or Prince (neither of who I ever got to witness onstage) I am determined to see all my idols before they hang it up for good. I realize this makes me unable to be completely objective, so be it.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Taffy – I knew it would be magical for you! I’m glad you finally got to see him. If this was my first show I’m sure I would be giving only unmitigated raves. As Mr. Ware said to me, Ferry is the last man standing. Lou Reed and Bowie are gone. Sure, sure. there’s Iggy Pop but he’s a different prospect entirely! And even he’s making noises that this last album/tour is his last [we’ll see].

      Ferry gives great set list. He takes all of his risks there and shames many others in that regard. His catalog is enviably great and is consistent as the day is long. Only the bulk of “Siren” fails to delight on one level or another. It’s true I hold my icons to a rigorous standard. I feel that 98% of them could be doing better work. As Ferry enters the home stretch, I hope that he can enter a space similar to Leonard Cohen, but Leonard’s head is in a far different space to the conflicted Ferry. My wife has been listening a lot to “Avonmore” and she offered that “Johnny + Mary” cuts so deep because he’s singing about himself. Whether conscious about it or not! I think she has something there.


  2. Echorich says:

    Over a year and a half on, a certain amount of “props” have to be given to Bryan Ferry for keeping the Avonmore fires burning. Sure, pretty much any Ferry show these days is as much about the canon as it is about the current release, but Ferry has always seemed to mix his own intentions in with the expectations of his audience.
    I have to day I envy you getting Dream Home and Both Ends Burning. Hearing Dream Home at Radio City back in 88 on the Bête Noir tour is still an all time highlight of my concert going experience.
    I agree with the sentiment that we have so few of our foundation artists left either alive or active and getting the opportunity to see Ferry live remains an important event.


  3. SimonH says:

    Was interested to read your take on Ferry live, sounds as though the band and lighting has changed slightly since the UK tour last year…but you got Dream Home, always a treat!
    It is interesting to think of a Ferry gig that acknowledged the frailties of age and used them to deepen the emotional impact of the music, there’s still time, as he seems reluctant to give up serious touring.
    Talking of Iggy, having see him this year deliver one of the best gigs of my life, in a way he does seem to embrace the vulnerability of age even when throwing himself into the mosh pit. Seeing him battered and bruised on the edge of the stage is strangely moving, add China Girl into the mix and it’s hard not to get a little choked.


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