Venue: Oval Hall, City Hall in Sheffield
Thursday night was the night that Sheffield came out to play. When a musical legend is playing on your doorstep, it is one not to miss. As doors opened and the crowds entered the venue you could see it was packed to the rafters with not an empty seat in sight.
Impressive LCD screens filled the stage along with an array of varied and unusual musical instruments.
Nine members of the Bryan Ferry Orchestra took to the stage with Musical Director and virtuoso pianist, Colin Good leading the group and MC-ing, guiding us through the set.
The night kicked off with music from the latest 2012 album, The Jazz Age. Playing reworked versions of Roxy Music songs in a 1920s swing/ jazz style and also music from that album that was notably featured in Baz Luhrmann’s recent film interpretation of the Great Gatsby.
Effortless, jazz rhythm guitar and banjo played by Martin Wheatley, dazzling trumpet solos from Enrico Tommaso and the fascinating bass saxophone made up a brilliant and varied start to the night. Playing everything from trad. jazz pieces by Duke Ellington, with passages from Ferry’s musical hero Charlie Parker leading into versions of Roxy Music material, to Young & Beautiful which was originally recorded with Lana Del Ray.
Mesmerised by the sheer quality and skill of the jazz orchestra, Bryan Ferry took to the stage suitably dressed in a suave and ornate smoking jacket ensemble and completed the lineup, or so we thought…
Ferry’s laid back, off the cuff delivery throughout the intricate jazz set illustrated a greater depth and warmth to the man as both a performer and interpreter, paying homage to some of his own musical heroes.
As the first part of the set came to a close, the jazz orchestra swapped their acoustic guitars for Fender Telecasters, light percussion to full rock drum kit and double bass for electric bass and evolved into the band that you would most associate, historically with Bryan Ferry’s musical legacy.
The crowd roared as lead guitarist, Oliver Thompson entered the stage, picked up his Gibson Les Paul and let the distorted, over-driven sound ring throughout the concert hall.
Reeling off all the hits such as Street Life, Avalon, Dance Away, Jealous Guy to name just a few of the impressive and timeless songs in the back catalogue. A poignant and powerful version of Eric Clapton’s Knocking On Heaven’s Door was featured, with a brilliant, sensitive vocal performance from Ferry and his two backing singers, blending together beautifully.
After breaking everyone’s hearts Ferry and the full band got the crowd dancing in their seats by rounding off the evening with renditions of Love Is the Drug and Let’s Stick Together.
Shouting for more, Ferry received two encores and still the crowd was screaming for more at the end of the evening.
How could you top that? A personal musical journey, which unfolded during the evening starting with Ferry’s love of 1920s music, playing songs throughout his career, with an unusual yet brilliant twist. Then growing in numbers, the group showed their musical versatility by enthralling the audience from the first to last note.
Whilst many of Ferry’s contemporaries have fallen into the trap of cashing in on the same material they were playing more than thirty years ago, with the same arrangements and lineup, he has taken the bold step to turn the old into a new, exciting and different listening experience, much to the criticism of the press and public.
There is a time and a place for the familiar, but to take people’s expectations and turn them on their head should be admired when it is done with such expertise and finesse. A brave move of sheer genius by Ferry and his musical companions.
– Charlie Barker