Live Music Reviews

Bryan Ferry @ Olympia, Paris

23 September 2002


Bryan Ferry“It’s quite nerve-wracking to open up for Bryan Ferry.” Rosie Thomas has stage fright. No, it’s more like audience fright. The audience doesn’t bite, Rosie. In fact, they take a liking to the diminutive, shy singer with the child-like talking voice and the diva singing voice. Starting the short – very short – set alone on the piano, she is later joined by her band, which comprises of her brother Eric on guitar. Her intimidation of the audience doesn’t quite wear off, and she seems relieved when the set is over.

Opening for the legendary singer of Roxy Music may not be good forthe nerves, but it sure must be good for the soul. “Bryan Ferry is a verynice man. I think it’s great that you support him.” Does Rosie Thomas meanit’s great that the audience has supported him through the decades? BecauseBryan’s got three of those behind him, during which he has forged himself asan unprecedented reference to music.

Ferry, Bryan Ferry. He is as ageless and slick as James Bond. Thearistocrat of the music business. The instigator of a movement. Roxy Musicis to glam what the Sex Pistols are to punk. The Godfather of Style.The Lounge Lizard. The King of Cool. And even though he makes the surprisingrevelation to yours truly that he’s gotten better at just walking onstageand sitting at the piano, you still think he’s cool. Even a bit of stagefright is classy when it comes to Bryan.

Like Rosie, he walks straight to the piano and is The Only Face there.At each subsequent track, a musician is added. And there are a lot of them.Almost every instrument is up there, even a lyre, the instrument custom-madefor his mellifluous voice. He plays a mean, Dylan-esque harmonica on the Bob Dylan cover Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright). San Simeon and’Hiroshima’ are haunting, while Fool For Love is the ultimatedemonstration of his vocal abilities. Sinatra who?

But the show isn’t all substance. His glam roots are still planted. Aspecial note goes to the wardrobe of the backing vocalists – very HauteCouture. From his own demure outfit, Bryan later steps into something more glamhimself. He comes back during Limbo in a silvery suit. The stage is suddenly transformed into a jungle,thanks to the expertise of the lighting technicians, and the colourfulspotlights shimmer chameleon hues on his suit.

Despite Bryan’s boundless energy and charisma, the audience, a lot ofwhom are his age and who probably have some old 70s snapshots of themselvesall glammed up, are, I don’t know, just sitting there. Okay, this isn’t aMadonna concert, but still. It takes some classics to get them going. Ofcourse, no Bryan Ferry show would be complete without Slave to Love.During Jealous Guy, the audience finally realises they are at a concertand not a movie theatre and they get up to dance. It’s the classic Roxy Musichit Love is the Drug and the crowd won’t sit down anymore.

Then comes the ultimate glam touch, albeit unfathomable. Two cabaretdancers, complete in pink feathers and resembling fuchsia peacocks, enterthe stage and you wonder whether you’re in the famous Parisian cabaret theLido or in Las Vegas. No, Bryan isn’t Elvis. He is Ferry. Bryan Ferry.


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