Bryan Ferry Enslaves the Moody

UK romantic slays local romantics

When one of the gods hasn’t played Austin in practical memory recall, their powering up at a beloved venue such as ACL Live at the Moody Theater is pyrotechnic. Boom! Bryan Ferry inside the crown jewel of local concert halls on Wednesday night left everyone flush and not a single soul singed.

Early-Seventies English folk and prog, cut with glam and a pinch of metal, flourishes today among advancing generations, but to witness another of its thin white dukes – trim debonair count? – weighs ever more precious in our advancing age. Roxy Music (1971-2011), who counts Brian Eno among its first and continuing waves, flourished continentally on its home turf and took hold as a delicacy on its satellite shore. Ferry, CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), 71, sang with a avian croon giving rise to a whole generation of thick-lipped singers best embodied by the law firm of Morrissey, McCullough, and Smith.

Ferry remains in good voice – if you can hear it.

Bryan Ferry, ACL Live at the Moody Theater, 3.22.17 (Photo by Gary Miller)

Photo by Gary Miller

Any ninepiece band requires scaling to surmount and this one’s vox populi was built for comfort, not rappelling. Through the first half-hour of a total 110 minutes, Ferry faded into his finely tuned group: two guitarists, two backup singers, two multi-instrumentalists, then bass, drums, and keys. UK great Chris Spedding mostly stuck to rhythm axe save for a few showpieces, most notably his Flying V solo on a cover of Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane,” while star time singer Fonzi Thornton stacked on yet another layer of historical Ferry mystique.

Even so, Sydney saxophone marvel Jorja Chalmers nearly upstaged the boss himself, who knew well enough to bring her center stage repeatedly for solo after solo (alto, tenor, soprano) of bewitching pop noir. Despite Danish shredder Jacob Quistgaard out front of Spedding, her brass tacks led the band pied piper-like. Jorja on my mind.

Ferry and Jorja Chalmers (Photo by Gary Miller)

Fonzi Thornton (l) and Bobbie Gordon (Photo by Gary Miller)

Chris Spedding (Photo by Gary Miller)

Soul prog, avant glam, electro R&B – call it what you will. Ferry led it as understated as a club singer, gravitationally bound to the mic stand, right hand on it, left leg bent at the knee and bouncing off the floor with the occasional hip undulation. Standing, swooning, or sitting at another keyboard, the man dressed all in black emanated the elegance of Leonard Cohen, romance of David Bowie, and caress of Bryan Ferry.

Marina Moore’s violin cried, Neil Jason’s bass thwacked, and the audience rose to its feet. Plenty of seats in the balcony, plus at least two patrons could’ve straddled the giant disco ball hanging over the stage. At one juncture, the back screen went white, the drum riser also lit up white, and the stage went black, the band’s silhouettes popping the perfect cinematic visual to music’s mystery grip on mankind.

“Love Is the Drug” and “Virginia Plain” brought the avalanche at the end of the main set, Seventies rock hammering a visibly electrified Moody. Ferry’s chart-topping channeling of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” unmasked the best whistling since Otis Redding or Andrew Bird, and harmony constant Bobbie Gordon stopped just short of shattering glass with “Great Gig in the Sky” accompaniment. Welcome to Avalon.

Set list (Photo by Raoul Hernandez)

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Bryan Ferry, Chris Spedding, Fonzi Thornton, Jorja Chalmers, Bobbie Gordon, Jacob Quistgaard, Marina Moore, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Morrissey, Ian McCullough, Robert Smith, Otis Redding, John Lennon, Neil Young, Andrew Bird

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