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:: Brian Ferry ::
10 March 2003 / Guildhall / Preston
By Tom Kirk

“OMIGODitsBRYANandicantbelieveimevenhere -

....exclaims a bob-haircutted androgyne about four songs into Bryan Ferry’s set tonight.

In an effort to relax, (s)he lights a cigarette. 1,500 geriatric noses start snuffling accusatorily like police dogs on a drugs bust. Even Bryan looks a bit suspicious. “Sorry - I don’t want to make a big thing out of this,” says a woman of about 55 to our right with marked Tory-diplomacy, “but there are actually signs asking you not to smoke in the auditorium.”

She’s right. They’re just over there, next to the signs asking us not to consume alcohol except during the interval. That’s the interval – which is roughly when suspicions are aroused that this may not be the return to Bryan’s glory days of Roxy Music foot-stomping glam-spattered art-rock hedonism we’d hoped for. In fact, the ambience of the first three songs at tonight’s all-seater extravaganza is more lounge-lizard schmooze meets a trip to see the Halle Orchestra.

Ushers show us to our seats after an announcement that Bryan will be on stage at precisely a quarter-to-nine. The lights go down. A silhouette appears stage right. Bryan looks incredible. In fact, he looks like a nubile twenty-something blonde goddess playing the harp. Fucking hell, wait a second, it is a nubile twenty-something blonde goddess playing the harp! Where’s BRYAN???

Cunningly, this three-minute sex-siren (who receives polite applause from a slightly bemused audience) turns out to be a decoy allowing Bryan to sneak on stage under cover of darkness. He begins at the piano, back to the audience, crooning through some svelte middle-of-the-road coffee table number as only Bryan can. Phrases like “You-ure my wo-o-o-ma-a-an” slink sultrily through the darkness. Nobody apart from Bryan has ever heard this song before. It’s probably lifted from one of his post-Roxy easy-listening collections. It could be from his new LP, Frantic. If so, it should have been called Lethargic, because it sounds like Ultravox doing Enya covers in the basement of a seedy jazz club.

But there’s more than this up Bryan’s bespoke Saville Row sleeve. And, after another sliver of Radio 2 drive-time drivel and a concessionary rendition of his classic cover of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes he nips off to get it, whatever it is. In the meantime, his band, who have been appearing sporadically under shafts of blue light, cameo with some improvised jazz meandering. It takes minutes, it feels like weeks. But just as we’re about to give in and accept that finally Bryan has crossed the line between super seventies cult stud and boring old git – hurrah! – he leaps back on stage and launches into his utterly ace glittering, careering, honky-tonk glam gospel cover of A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.

The lights go up. The stage bursts into life. It looks like Moulin Rouge on a five quid budget. It sounds like Bryan shagging Enya on a bed of roses in the alley behind the jazz club. Spontaneously, his fans jump from their seats and those who can still run make for the stage. We tear down the stairs to join them. Within seconds we’re at Bryan’s very feet alongside the blubbering androgyne. “Oh my god he’s GORGEOUS!” screams an overweight former member of Pan’s People. It’s true. He doesn’t just look well-preserved, he looks like he’s been pickled in brine. Bryan’s got it all. The guitarist dressed as Hank Marvin. The sax player doing the squealy manic bits in Do The Strand. The younger, slinkier Jerry Hall replacement to do the feline yelps in Let’s Stick Together.

When he sings it’s like honey dripping down the walls of a leather fetish burlesque discotheque. When he dances it’s like Beckham after scoring against Argentina with a pelvic-thrust-boosting elasticated codpiece. When he whistles halfway through the smoochy, velveteen suave of Jealous Guy it’s like the 80’s never died, they just floated away on a cloud of dry ice. His hair flops, his suit sparkles, his shirt glitters. And we dance away to this calculated showman sophisticate, this spangling sleaze-muffin, smoother than Roger Moore in a tub of Greek yoghurt. He is Bryan Ferry, he is the man, and tonight – man, woman, hermaphrodite alike – we all want to have his babies.

Brian Ferry's Official Website

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