On the way to the Tower to see Bryan Ferry, we popped Olympia into the CD player. Song to the Siren. It seemed like the culmination of Bryan’s work since the beginning, pulling together all the strands of his art into one gorgeous romantic anthem. Words and music deceptively simple on the surface. Complex layers of vast sound and intimate meaning lie beneath, over a compellingly driving rhythm. Wistful images form in your mind. A song like ocean waves. There are real whale songs in the mix.
Bryan Ferry is the sole inhabitant of his own genre. There is no one like him. Song to the Siren is actually a cover of a Tim Buckley song from the 60’s, but Bryan has made it his own.
My twenty-something daughter Eva is also a fan. Explaining Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry to people in her own generation (who ought to know) has been a challenge. How would you describe Bryan Ferry? That the hipsters haven’t yet caught on was evident at the show: almost everyone in the audience was 45 and up.
I discovered Roxy Music a little later than my art college friends, in 1979. It was Siren. That album forever changed my relationship to music and I have internalized it differently since. To be honest, in trying to describe my changing reaction to Bryan Ferry’s music over the years, words fail me.
By the time I found them, Roxy Music was almost done, having broken up after Manifesto in ’77. They would reunite a couple more times but Bryan, Andy and Phil had moved into solo artist territory. The glam heyday which they had helped to create seemed to my 19 year-old mind like ancient rock history. Music changed fast in those days and artists remade themselves about once a year complete with a new concept album. Though RM had only begun eight years before, they had released six albums, a lot of evolving material.
My husband and I have seen Mr. Ferry only once before. On April 23, 1983, tickets went on sale to see Roxy Music at the Tower. That also happened to be our wedding day. We drove to the ticket office and bought those tickets in the morning, and we got married at 1:00.
I believe that show at the Tower in May of 1983 was the very last appearance that Roxy Music ever made in the U.S. (I could be wrong.) It was awesome.
Bryan Ferry is probably the foremost artist in his own right who is also a devoted cover artist. There are eight RM studio albums and 15 BF albums. Most of the solo albums have one to several covers, aside from the ones which are dedicated tribute/cover albums. There is Dylanesque, The Jazz Age, and As Time Goes By.
Last night I didn’t know what we would hear. His body of work is so vast that he couldn’t even do a survey in one evening. It was wonderful. We met a friend from art school after the show, who put it this way: “It was everything I wanted.”
Except, curiously I thought, he did not do Song to the Siren.
They started off running with Re-Make/Re-Model. So many early Roxy songs, so satisfying. Kiss and Tell, Slave to Love, Ladytron! If There Is Something! Oh Yeah, Stronger Through the Years, Reason or Rhyme, Don’t Stop the Dance! Loop di Li, Johnny and Mary, Tara, Take a Chance with Me, Can’t Let Go, More Than this, Avalon, Casanova!!, Love is the Drug, Both Ends Burning, Jealous Guy…and Editions of You.
So many times I had to turn to Eva with my excited happy face. Each one seemed like a thoughtful gift to cherished fans. I was so glad that Eva was there; she has superb musical sense and really “gets” Mr. Ferry.
The band was excellent. They were often mimicking the riffs we hear on our albums, but it was quite clear that this was a really superlative bunch of musicians. It was cool to see Fonzi Thornton again; he was in the same spot in 1983 as well.
On the down side: the sound system was not as crisp as one would like. When Bryan spoke to the audience, words were hard to make out. Oh yes, and I wasn’t in the front row. That too.
Let it be noted that Mr. Ferry, rather than referencing cheesesteaks or Phillies, as all other performers do, related a memory about the Duchamp at the Philadelphia Art Museum which inspired The Bride Stripped Bare. He is one of a kind.
He had cancelled the preceding three shows because of illness, and at first it seemed he was spending most of his time sitting at the keyboard. But as the night wore on, he seemed to be gaining energy, having more fun. More and more his flashing smile lit up that giant room.
No, there are no pictures of us with Mr. Ferry. I’ll never have the opportunity to meet him, and I think he can happily go through life without my brilliant fan comment: “Bjhgudfbuvdtncqosncnq.”