Manchester (Sounds Write) - Mon 25th May

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by Anthony Loman for

MENTION of the name Bryan Ferry and the words cool, suave, sophisticated and stylish are invariably uttered in the same breath.

And this has been the way of it ever since the miner's son from the North East first burst onto the music scene to thrill us fronting the avant-garde, seminal rock band he formed at art college, Roxy Music.

Back in the early 70s there was no cooler or more exciting band than Roxy, they had the 'look' and a 'sound' like nothing that had been seen or heard before.

Barely putting a foot wrong with their first four/five albums, those records were noteworthy not only for the fantastic music but also for their brilliant, sexy and ultra hip cover art.

Roxy's sound softened towards the end of their 'life' but the band's final albums 'Flesh & Blood' and 'Avalon' elevated silky smooth pop/rock to a whole new level.

Ferry's subsequent solo career has never quite scaled the same heights of his Roxy Music heyday (a big ask for sure) but there have been some mighty fine albums amongst the fifteen he has recorded over the years and his latest release, 'Avonmore', is definitely right up there with the best of them.

Now just one year shy of his milestone 70th birthday, Ferry is back out on the road again in support of his 'Avonmore' album and, on stage last week at Manchester's Palace theatre, he made a glorious mockery of his age with a performance that made you wonder if he had indeed been frozen in time around 1979 and just defrosted a few weeks back, prior to the tour commencing, such is the way his dashing looks and signature vocals have remained almost perfectly intact.

The man has always known how to dress with real style too, long favouring the tailoring of London fashion designer Antony Price, and nothing has changed on that front either as he took to the stage in a beautifully cut dark blue suit and shirt combo that perfectly masked the few lbs he has naturally gained over his five decade career and, even his now greying hair looks ridiculously good on him in the way it just doesn't on most others.

Backing Ferry on this tour is a wonderful, impeccably drilled ten -piece band featuring three deeply sweet and soulful backing singers, two fleet-fingered guitarists, a keyboard player, a super tight rhythm section and  female violinist and female sax player/keyboardist , the latter being a long- legged lovely who looked every inch like she had just been transported from the set of a classic Roxy album cover shoot.

Whilst all played and sang in perfect unison, each member was also given ample opportunity to showcase their fantastic individual talents during the course of the show.

The set list was a silky blend of new cuts (five of them) from the Avonmore album(the title track itself, Driving Me Wild, Loop De Li, One Night Stand and Midnight Train), songs plucked deep from the Roxy catalogue (such as Ladytron from the Roxy debut album, Beauty Queen from For Your Pleasure, Out Of The Blue, Stronger Through The Years from Manifesto and Avalon tracks Tara & Take A Chance With Me),  a couple of not too frequently performed solo album tracks (Bete Noire and Zamba), the seductive smooth hits (Slave To Love, More Than This & Avalon) and some classic covers (Dylan's Don't Think Twice It's Alright, the Jerome Kern/Otto Harbach standard Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and Lennon's Jealous Guy),  which he has always had a knack of choosing so well throughout his career.

And of course the night and performance would not have been complete without a good splattering of classic Roxy (danceable) hits - Love Is The Drug, Virginia Plain, Do The Strand, Let's Stick Together and Editions Of You - that had everyone on their feet(though some of the crowd now taking somewhat longer to get on them than it would have done fortysomething years ago).

This 'Ferry' however remains defiantly roburst and sturdy, yet still glides over the 'waters' ever so smoothly and elegantly and it looks as though it will be a long time yet before it is taken out of regular service.

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