Bryan Ferry at Edinburgh Castle, Review
Bryan Ferry is, without question, the most effortlessly cool man in his mid-sixties that I have ever laid eyes on. Dressed impeccably in charcoal black suit, shirt and tie, he wanders onstage at Edinburgh Castle with the diffident air of someone who just slipped into his best clothes to pop out for a pint of milk. Ferry remains the very epitome of smooth, suave urbaneness and has the audience, themselves decked out in their gladrags, eating out of his hand.
With a large, formidable band as well as four backing singers and occasional high-kicking dancers, expectations are high for an evening delving through Ferry’s extensively love-lorn and louche back catalogue. Starting with his cover of Screaming Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You” before segueing into his own solo classics, “Slave To Love” and “Don’t Stop The Dance”, that seems to be what’s in store for us.
But Ferry has always been in thrall to covering other peoples’ songs (“Readymades”, he calls them, in tribute to his art school mentor, Richard Hamilton) and tonight we get a few too many of them. A couple of Bob Dylan covers early on are fair enough, given his “Dylanesque” album of 2007 which focused on his continuing obsession with Mr Zimmerman, but a later stodgy trundle through Neil Young’s “Like A Hurricane” more than outstays its massively elongated (un)welcome.
We also get a fair few cuts off last years’ admittedly excellent “Olympia” album, though the audience go noticeably quiet when Ferry introduces another song “…off the new record”. A somewhat over-extended 20-minute midway interval also seems a poor choice, especially considering Ferry’s early statement that they have a lot to get through “...because of some curfew or something”.
Despite these problems, when Ferry finally delves into the Roxy Music archives, the results are sublime. The likes of “Avalon”, “True To Life” and “My Only Love” remain peerless examples of windswept AOR, although the clunky five-minute guitar solo in the latter is best forgotten. It’s also a joy to hear early Roxy classics “If There Is Something” and “Editions Of You” getting their rapturous due.
Finishing the main set with a rather falteringly extended “Let’s Stick Together”, Ferry then returns for the inevitable encore of “Jealous Guy”, complete with a near-perfect whistling solo. The crowd is fully geared up for a final blast of Roxy magic. “Virginia Plain”, perhaps, or maybe “Do The Strand”? Thus making it a colossal anti-climax when Ferry chooses to end the night with a turgid stomp through ageing soul track, “Hold On (I’m Coming)”.
It’s Ferry at his worst, a duff cover at the standard one would expect from Vic Reeves’ club singer persona. A badly misjudged ending and, while they clap along and make the best of it, one can feel the sense of audience disappointment. Come on, Bryan, we wanted to hear YOUR songs, is the feeling around the arena. It’s been a frustrating evening, with highs and lows, but worth if for odd glimpses of the old thrill.