BRYAN Ferry’s latest album Avonmore sounds like the work of someone who hasn’t listened to anything in the last 30 years apart from Roxy Music’s swansong Avalon. It’s the perfect distillation of his carefully-crafted sound and persona – impossibly suave and effortless art-rock from a man who’s cooler than all the other chancers who get dubbed ‘king of cool’ by critics.
Ferry is the only artist who could dub his gig ‘An Evening With’ and make it sound like he’ll be joining you for a glass of cognanc and flick through your LPs. But the evening in the Waterfront won’t be all smoking jackets and sultry tones. Avonmore may be trademark smouldering Ferry, with choice cuts like Midnight Train, Driving Me Wild and Loop Di Li doing the heavy lifting, but he has 40 years of classics to choose from, with plenty of left turns along the way.
Most of Ferry’s wild experimentalism is behind him, but his legacy was sealed instantly as leader and chief songwriter of Roxy Music — one of the most revered and influential bands in rock history. From 1972-82, Roxy Music emerged as a more elegant and refined version of glam. The sleeves of their first two albums, Roxy Music and For Your Pleasure, may have displayed preening feathers and leopard print, but they ran parallel to mainstream glam rock’s lumpen pub rock riffs and clumsy dress-up capers.
Ferry, along with Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay, Paul Thompson and Brian Eno on synths and effects, brought a sophistication and archness to the charts, rivalling David Bowie for experimentation on early tracks like Virginia Plain, Ladytron, Do the Strand and the dark curtain-twitching masterpiece In Every Dream Home a Heartache.
Fabled ‘creative differences’ meant Eno jumped ship in 1973, leaving Ferry to steer the good ship Roxy into smoother waters. He gradually chipped away the avant-garde edges on albums like Stranded and Country Life, before 1980s Flesh + Blood and their ridiculously ornate swansong Avalon. The Avalon sound has since been Ferry’s go-to comfort zone, and no doubt in the Waterfront he’ll be taking the edge off early Roxy favourites like Re-Make/Re-Model, Love Is the Drug and Casanova. Expect other solo mainstays like Slave To Love and his unique stamp on covers Jealous Guy and Let’s Stick Together.
Ferry has spent a few years experimenting with his legacy, notably on the Bryan Ferry Orchestra’s Jazz Age album, reimagining his catalogue as 1920s jazz, and his Bob Dylan cover album, but this time round the block we get smooth Bryan, and everything in its right place.
Bryan Ferry plays the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, tonight, Wednesday, May 6
Original version in Irish Daily Star