Bryan Ferry Updates The Past In Concert

Ex–Roxy Music singer mixes reworked tunes from former band with '30s pop songs off new solo LP.

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

either side.

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

crowd.

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

do!"

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

solo.

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."