Harrogate - Sat 23rd May

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by Charles Hutchinson for


BRYAN Ferry is on a hot streak as he approaches 70, reinventing his concert performances with each album, which now come with pleasing regularity.

On his last North Yorkshire appearance in November 2013 at York Barbican, he had released The Jazz Age the previous year, his set preceded by 20 minutes of the Bryan Ferry Orchestra minus Bryan with an array of vintage brass instruments that looked more like Heath Robinson inventions.

Avalon with a Spanish Jazz Age twist was a particularly striking reinvention that night, and now Avalon, Roxy Music’s eighth and final studio set from May 1982, has been the template for last November’s stately Avonmore, a sleek cocktail of a post-divorce Ferry album that bit the stone in the olive only in its forlorn and forsaken latter stages.

Much of the record before covers of Send In The Clowns and Johnny And Mary had a polished veneer, emotions held in check, and it was this Ferry, cool and elegant as ever, that presented itself on a hot Harrogate night that made everything stick together.

Once more, he had gathered around him a wonderful band, with a different musical director, Paul Beard on keyboards; Neil Hubbard, from the Avalon era, and Jacob Quistgaard on guitars; three backing singers; and Jimmy Sims and Luke Bullen on supple bass and drums. For even more of your pleasure were Jorja Chalmers, dressed as if for a jazz age dance, on saxophone, keyboards and cor anglais, and Nalalia Bonner on violin; the night’s two outstanding players.

Ferry began with two slinky, coiled numbers from Avonmore, the title track and Driving Me Wild; vintage Ferry in smoking-jacket mode where the wildness is in the imagination, not physical exertion.

“It’s lovely to be back in Harrogate,” said Bryan, in the first of only three brief addresses to the sold-out crowd.

Chatter has never been his style; his eloquence is in his songs, and his elegant, graceful singing, be it a thrilling revival of Roxy Music’s Ladytron or his Dylan covers of Bob Dylan’s Dream and in particular Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.

This was a night for spotting both Roxy and Ferry’s lesser-visited back catalogue, Avalon’s Tara and Take A Chance With Me and Ferry’s Bête Noir and Zamba from 1987, complemented by more from Avonmore, Loop de Li, One Night Stand and Midnight Train.

If you wanted the stories behind them, you were left in the dark, in keeping with the low and soft lighting – save for the sudden glistening spins of a glitterball – that echoed a Weimar-era nightclub.

“There is nowhere more beautiful than North Yorkshire on a sunny day, don’t you think,” said Bryan in a crowd-pleasing aside, before the even more crowd-pleasing finale that brought Harrogate to its feet.

There was a home run of More Than This, Avalon, Love Is The Drug... you can guess the rest. Virginia Plain, yes; Do The Strand, yes indeed; an encore of Let’s Stick Together, tick.

Editions Of You writhed and raged, giving way to Bryan’s peerless cover of Jealous Guy, as this impeccable Ferry across the ages departed in quiet reflection.

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