From his voguish black jacket and scarf combo to his band’s ultra-polished sound, Bryan Ferry would have been a shoo-in to play a posher theater on Saturday, one like Northrop Auditorium, where he last appeared in town with his old band Roxy Music in 2001. Instead, the 71-year-old pop-rock auteur made his overdue return to the Twin Cities at the newly refurbished but still rugged, punkier-vibed Palace Theatre. And that proved to be a good thing.
The venue -- with its open general-admission floor and reclaimed urban aesthetic -- helped keep the sometimes languid 95-minute performance from feeling too stiff or slick. Fans had room to dance and get a little rowdy when the show called for it, as it did early on during the Roxy classic “Ladytron” and especially near the end with a run of his old group’s best-known songs, including “More Than This,” “Love Is the Drug” and “Virginia Plain.”
Conversely, fans didn't fall asleep in their chairs when the music veered into new-agey, breezy territory like a score to an IMAX nature film, as in the '80s material "Zamba" and "Bête Noire." His interpretations of Bob Dylan ("Simple Twist of Fate") and Neil Young ("Like a Hurricane") felt a little tired and lounge-singer superfluous, too.
Maybe one of the reasons those tunes seemed a tad dull was because most of the old Roxy Music tunes felt so alive. Kudos to Ferry's nine-piece band for pulling off the often quirky, cocky grooves and rich layers in "Stronger Through the Years" and “Out of the Blue,” the latter of which spotlighted saxophonist Jorja Chalmers (who was also a part of the last Roxy Music tour in 2011). The band especially nailed “Virginia Plain,” which made for a rousing pre-encore finale.
Kudos also to Ferry for still singing those old favorites with the perfect amount of sophisticated melancholy and aloof drama, as he did in "Avalon" and "More Than This," each performed with pristine precision. Another vocal highlight was “In Every Dream Home a Heartache,” which he delivered largely by himself while seated at a keyboard pumping out eerie organ parts. Maybe the fact that Ferry hasn't toured a ton over the past decade-plus -- 16 years between Minnesota dates! – helped him spike the old nuggets with plenty of spirit and even a dose of romanticism. It really seemed like he still loves his job.
The peppery-haired singer came across very appreciative and humbled by the crowd’s response, making aw-shucks gestures when the room lit up after his well-known remake of the 1962 blues nugget “Let’s Stick Together.” He especially played the part of the polite English gentleman three-quarters of the way into the set when he said, "I hope you like the selection of songs we brought to you." He followed that with a pleasantly surprising choice: "If There Is Something," a Beatles-y nugget from Roxy Music's 1972 debut.
The show picked up steadily in momentum as it rolled along, reaching its top rock velocity at the start of the encore with "Let's Stick Together" and the Velvet Underground's "What Goes On." Ferry then reached his top emotional output on vocals in his beloved reworking of "Jealous Guy." It looked as if the Lennon cover would end the concert, but the crowd -- most of it already standing for the final ovation -- cheered Ferry back out for a bonus song that was a bona-fide jackpot: The Roxy classic "Editions of You," just a plain-old cool tune and mighty strong finish.
Here’s the setlist from Saturday’s concert:
- The Main Thing
- Slave to Love
- Out of the Blue
- Simple Twist of Fate (Bob Dylan cover)
- A Waste Land
- Bête Noire
- Stronger Through the Years
- Like a Hurricane (Neil Young cover)
- Can’t Let Go
- In Every Dream Home a Heartache
- If There Is Something
- More Than This
- Love Is the Drug
- Virginia Plain
- ENCORE 1:
- Let’s Stick Together (Wilbert Harrison cover)
- What Goes On (Velvet Underground cover)
- Jealous Guy (John Lennon cover)
- ENCORE 2:
- Editions of You