Ferry's The Drug - Thu 19th Feb

Ferry's The Drug
19 February 2004

Ferry's The Drug

by Jeerawat Na Thalang

for The Nation

Published on Feb 20, 2004

Smooth as silk and charming as ever, the British song stylist has a trunk-full of magic with which to seduce Bangkok on Monday

Bryan Ferry's voice suggests his cool decorum. "It's Bryan speaking," the legendary frontman of British cult group Roxy Music says in smooth, accented tones on a long-distance call from Tasmania.

It's taken several attempts to secure a connection, and we have to speak loudly to make sure we're still linked, but there's no sign of frustration of temperament in the icon's conversation.

Ferry may be ageing, but he's as cool and unflustered as you'd expect from a performer of his pedigree.

"I'm pretty excited about playing in Bangkok for the first time," he says of Monday's gig with the Pretenders at Suan Lum Night Bazaar's BEC Tero Hall.

Ferry, 58, is just wrapping up a short Australian tour, on which he shared three dates with the Pretenders. "I'm a big Pretenders fan," he says. "Actually, Chrissie [Hynde, the Pretenders' leader] sings better than ever.

"It's great excitement to go around playing in new places," he adds, noting that he's been to Thailand twice as a tourist, the last time a decade ago. "I think it's great to have audiences that like your work around the world. It's a real privilege and very exciting."

Fan support in Australia, he says, has been "interesting - there's a big mixture. Some are young, some are fans from the '70s. But usually, when we play the stadiums, the audience will be younger."

Born on September 26, 1945, in Washington, England, the son of a coal miner, Bryan Ferry began his musical career singing with rock outfit the Banshees while studying art at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne under pop-conceptualist Richard Hamilton.

He later tellingly joined the Gas Board, a soul group featuring bassist Graham Simpson. In 1970, he and Simpson formed Roxy Music, which in its youth inspired such bands as Duran Duran (recently reunited to much fan enthusiasm) and Spandau Ballet, the so-called New Romantics who dominated airwaves on the eve of the MTV generation.

In the mid-'80s, Ferry's solo hits like "Don't Stop the Dance" and "Slave to Love" defined pop for a broad swath of fans in search of a new rhythm 'n' roll, but it took the Roxy Music reunion tour two years ago to show how badly missed the band's work had been, and perhaps it helped propel him back into the studio again - with original songs instead of covers, as was the case with his previous release, "As Time Goes By".

His most recent album, 2002's "Frantic", was his first solo offering of originals since "Mamouna" eight years earlier. "Frantic" may seem an odd title for such a collection of generally mellow music, but it was inspired by the turbulence of his lifestyle when it was recorded. "I finished it just weeks after the Roxy Music reunion tour," he says, "and it was a very frantic time, being on tour, filming the tour and releasing a solo album at the same time. That's frantic!"

Asked to compare his current show tunes with those of Roxy Music, Ferry describes them as "a bit different. I do some acoustic things. It's very different from Roxy, which is very electronic. That's a big difference."

As a solo artist, Ferry has played with various musicians to experiment with different sounds. "As Time Goes By" was built around light and acoustic jazz treatments of hits from the 1920s.

"But Roxy is a very big part of my life and my career," he says, while expressing interest in American hip-hop and new rock bands like the White Stripes and Radiohead.

With Roxy's drummer in tow, Ferry promises his Bangkok show will run the gamut from solo hits to Roxy standards. Recent reviews suggest we'll be treated to, among other crowd-pleasers, "Jealous Guy", "Love is the Drug", "Avalon", "More Than This", "Hard Rain's Gonna Fall", "Let's Stick Together" and even "Wooly Bully" and Leadbelly's "Goodnight Irene"!

It should be an historic rock "reunion" of a different sort: Bryan Ferry and the Pretenders, featuring Chrissie Hynde, Monday at 8pm at Bangkok's BEC Tero Hall, Suan Lum Night Bazaar.

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