OAKLAND, Calif. Bryan Ferry, the Welsh-born son of a coal
miner who grew to become the epitome of postmodern suave, brought his
13-piece orchestra Monday to the ornate, art-deco-style Paramount Theater.
The occasion was the singer's 15-date U.S. tour to promote his latest
album, As Time Goes By, a collection of 1930s-era pop material.
"I wish we could play here every night," the seemingly reserved, understated
singer told the crowd late in the show.
Indeed, the restored theater seemed the perfect setting for Ferry's elegant
pastiche of time-honored souvenirs of another era, smatterings of his
repertoire from his days fronting avant-garde art-rockers Roxy Music and
some original numbers from his extensive solo career. The crowd, slightly
short of a sellout, dressed up for the occasion and greeted the band warmly.
But as the show progressed, and Ferry dug into some of his harder-rocking
material, the audience abandoned some of its sense of decorum, shouting
and whooping between songs.
Ferry, clad in a white shirt open at the collar, an unbuttoned black
jacket and loose-fitting black leather trousers, joined a band that included
a harp player, a string quartet, a four-piece horn section and a piano
player, drummer, bassist and guitarist. The latter two switched from
acoustic to electric instruments from song to song, with the guitarist
also using a banjo for "It Was Just One of Those Things" late in the set.
Ferry and the orchestra opened with a string of Broadway and Hollywood
standards: "Nightfall," "The Way You Look Tonight," "Love Me or Leave Me"
and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" which Ferry first covered in 1974
on Another Time, Another Place, his second solo album.
"Chance Meeting," an early Roxy Music ballad, folded seamlessly into
"Lover Come Back to Me," prominently featuring the clarinet, and "Easy
Living," both from the new album. The band coolly swung into tasteful
horn solos between verses. Behind, small lights twinkled like stars against
a black backdrop, as brightly colored spots bathed sections of the stage
in deep, rich hues of purple, green and blue. Ferry would step back from
the microphone, delicately swinging his arms as he took a few steps to
The Irish traditional "Carrickfergus," from the 1978 Ferry album, The
Bride Stripped Bare, followed. Then the ensemble moved on to the
late-1930s Bunny Berigan hit "I Can't Get Started."
After "Where or When," with its clarinet and cello solos, the guitarist
and drummer switched to electric instruments for a pair of memorable
tracks off Roxy Music's 1974 album, Country Life, the band's first
U.S. success. "Bitter Sweet," with its sharp, dissonant strokes from the
string section, and "Casanova" inspired new levels of clamor from the
Ferry calmed things down as he walked over to bandleader Colin Good's
grand piano at stage right, saying, "Some of you might remember this, I
hope." But before he could start in on "The Only Face," from his previous
solo album, 1994's Mamouna, someone in the crowd yelled out "I
Kurt Weill's "September Song," was sung with a slight German accent;
Cole Porter's 1929 composition "You Do Something to Me" featured a viola
For "Avalon" (RealAudio
excerpt), the title track off Roxy Music's 1982 studio album, the
harp player moved to a conga drum and added backup vocals. As with the
other Roxy material, a new arrangement gave "Avalon" fresh color without
losing any of the sheen or majesty of the original version.
With the crowd, by now, eating out of his hand, Ferry sang John Lennon's
"Jealous Guy" a hit for Roxy Music when they recorded it as a
tribute to Lennon in the early '80s and "Let's Stick Together,"
the title track off another of the singer's solo records.
The band then briefly left the stage. Finally, Ferry, blowing kisses and
waving, returned. He sent the crowd into the night with Roxy's "Do the
Strand" from 1973's For Your Pleasure, and "As Time Goes By,"
first made famous in the Humphrey Bogart film "Casablanca."
Outside, the crowd buzzed for a while underneath the neon light of the
enormous Paramount marquee before slowly dispersing.
"The babe," sighed Madonna Weathers, 36, of San Francisco. "It was all
this nice music all these love songs. It was perfect for Bryan
Ferry. His shows have never been like that. Now, he's got it."