There is inevitably something exciting about seeing an icon perform. One expects to be drawn into an intimacy where you can luxuriate in seeing the familiar and loved music performed directly from the lips of the artist, to be welcomed into sharing new music and to bask with the rest of the audience, in shared adulation. The artist has a part to play, not just in using their well-established talent but to engage their fans and prove their status
This is probably why, despite the undoubted talent of the Bryan Ferry Orchestra, the absence of Ferry himself, at the opening of an ‘Evening with Bryan Ferry’, felt such a gap. Bryan Ferry songs, though cleverly arranged, feel hollow without his silky voice. This explains the restlessness of the audience throughout the start of the set.
When Ferry himself came on, dressed urbanely as ever, in a patterned tuxedo, his coolness transcending his 68 years, the audience settled and Ferry sang. His charm was there as ever but he seemed oblivious to the audience, distant and unengaged. Icons owe something to their fans and the fans deserve some attention, some acknowledgement of their presence, their loyalty and their adoration. The music was great, the tributes to other stars were sound, but there was a sterility to the show – until the second half.
After the interval the show came alive. The Bryan Ferry Orchestra, who stayed on stage with the other musicians throughout, contributed to the full and bluesy sound which suddenly came in to it’s own. The dancers became a whirling exciting presence. The audience became a part of the show to the point where they got to their feet and the people in the Lowry responded to their hero with a long-needed dose of energy and fever. ‘Love Is The Drug’ was all we had wished for in the whole show. Ferry was now at his best; charismatic, exciting and fully enthralling. The audience loved it, no-one stayed in their seats.
Bryan Ferry still has the power to hold an audience in his hand. The people at the Lowry had a good experience but deserved more than a cursory “Goodnight” before Mr Ferry left the stage, with no encore. His iconic cool and timeless nonchalance could be used as an excuse for what is essentially lacklustre showmanship but that debate could go on forever. To be fair though, ‘Love Is The Drug’ was amazing. That’s the main thing, right?
Words: Luke Barnbrook