Tag Archives: Bryan Ferry

Bryan Ferry at the Tower, Philadelphia

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.

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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.

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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.”

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My Concert Shoes

These are my concert shoes. I have worn them to every live show since October 1, 2010.  Which is a good few.

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I found them in a bag of clothes given to us by a friend.  Knock-off chucks.They hadn’t been worn yet (the soles were clean) and they fit just right. I’ve received a lot of compliments on them over the years, and from some pretty cool people. I put them on to see the B-52s at the Electric Factory. That was October 1, 2010. I wore them two days later at the same venue to see Switchfoot for the first time.

I don’t have the chucks, which we called high tops then, that I wore to see the B-52s for the first time. But I might have been wearing retro 60’s clothes with heels. That was probably 1981.

I wore them last Friday night (May 2) to see Nickel Creek. Lucy and I are fans of this incredible band which was “on hiatus” for 6 1/2 years. Nickel Creek was no more and each of the members, Sean Watkins, Sara Watkins and Chris Thile, each branched off into multiple solo projects. Multiple projects! They are at the top of the list in their genre, and each one has mastered other genres as well, until genre distinctions become useless. Chris Thile helps you to appreciate how classical mandolin overlaps with bluegrass, how short is the journey from one genre to another, and that music is music is music is joy.

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When the tour is over, there may never be a chance to see them together again.

So it was an important show to see. They were amazing.  You truly have to see them live to understand how good they are. These guys have been playing together since they were little kids and their virtuosity shows. And they are funny, witty, and charming, as performers tend to be when they are having a lot of fun.  Sara was particularly impressive.  I was not ready for how powerful and perfect her voice is. Sean’s guitar is clearly the backbone of the trio. Ever the quiet one onstage, it was he who came out after the show to shake hands and thank waiting fans. This is Lucy:

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I was fighting a familiar train of thought during the Nickel Creek show.  It springs to mind at all good concerts and it goes like this: This is so wonderful I don’t want to forget it.  This music happening right now, this second, is passing. That part is over, it’s gone. Pay attention!  You want to remember this!  No, pay attention to what’s happening now!  Stop thinking this and pay attention! Stop thinking that too and pay attention!

It’s the old In the Moment  dilemma. I’m always thinking about how to hold onto the rare and amazing experience I’m enjoying, and that conflicts with my ability to enjoy it right now. I can’t help thinking that thinking about how special it is diminishes the power of the experience.

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This Friday, I will wear my shoes to see The Aquabats at the TLA. It will be my husband, Lucy, Josh, Maddy and our friend Brandon. It will just be a lot of fun. And this will be a standing room show–yay!  All musical events less formal than classical concerts ought to be standing room! Someone should do something about this.

This summer I’ll wear my shoes to see NIN with my daughter Eva. That may raise a question or two from anyone who is tracking with the general theme of my blog; am I “proving all things”? Trent Reznor promotes a very different personal worldview than I do, and there are” language” differences as well. There are two reasons why I will go. First: as a musician, he has real integrity, which is rare these days. The music is honest, emotionally and artistically. Layers and layers of dense industrial sound, yet very melodic and relatable. Second: I would not miss an opportunity to experience this with my daughter.  Music is very important to Eva, to Lucy, and to me.  We spend a lot of time talking about music. It’s something we share and understand together. There’s no question that I will go.

Because cultivating the relationships I have been given is what I am still here for. Sharing experiences with each of my kids is the best thing I can do with my time, and I wouldn’t miss it. They are absolutely my favorite people on Earth.

Lucy gave me the ticket to see Nickel Creek for Mother’s Day. We’ve experienced a lot of concerts together…Switchfoot several times, Needtobreathe, John Mark McMillan, Family Force 5. And Fiction Family, where we met Sean Watkins before.

Eva is buying my ticket to NIN.  And Harry, Eva and I have our tickets to see Bryan Ferry in October! We have been successful: Eva knows that Bryan is The Man.  I am so proud.

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My shoes will accompany me to more concerts til they fall apart, and it looks like that won’t be long.