The Saenger Theater in New Orleans was stuffed with colored hair and flashy outfits on Thursday, March 16 as Bryan Ferry came to the city for the first time ever. Currently on his 2017 world tour, Bryan Ferry was the voice of English alternative rock group, Roxy Music, who had ample success in the 1970’s and early 80’s. Roxy Music took rock in a direction of fantasy and experimentation, capturing fans of pop, psychedelic, and progressive rock. Ferry is often compared to David Bowie for changing a generation with his glamorous music and image. Though Roxy broke up in 1983, they reunited from 2001-2011, touring off and on. In 1973, Bryan Ferry also began a solo career, which would share success with Roxy Music.
To open the evening, Judith Owen, wife of local resident Harry Shearer, played a smooth set with her quartet. She plays piano and sings in a jazz vocal style. The music was relaxed and almost a bit hip-hop like. She ended with an interesting slow version of 5th Dminesion’s 1969 hit “The Age of Aquarius.”
At 9:00pm, Bryan Ferry’s band came out. As the spotlight found Ferry, the crowd erupted. The set started with the Roxy Music song “The Main Thing” from Avalon (1982) and proceeded into Ferry’s most popular solo hit “Slave to Love” from Boys and Girls (1985). Then, someone threw the psychedelic switch and the multicolored lights dazzled the audience during an epic rendition of “Ladytron” from Roxy Music’s 1972 self titled debut.
Ferry alternated between playing keys and standalone singing; however, his backing band was all over the place. The bassist and second guitar player were seasoned musicians that have most likely been playing with Ferry for years; yet, this live performance was supported by a cast of young, supremely talented musicians. One girl played soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, and synths, carrying much of the imaginative sound of the 1970’s Roxy Music tunes. He also brought with him a violinist and a pair of backup singers.
The rest of the set was actually fairly light on his solo songs. Almost the entire setlist was made up of Roxy tracks, including deep cuts like “If There Is Something” a fairly bluesy, almost country jam from Roxy’s debut record. Of course, he played more classics, too: “More Than This,” “Avalon,” “Take a Chance with Me,” “Love is the Drug,” and a sensational “Virginia Plain.” He even performed covers of Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane” and John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.” The final song of the evening was “Editions of You” by Roxy Music. By the end, fans had leapt from their seats and formed a standing crowd at the base of the stage. It was clear New Orleans had been waiting too long for this magical music, and hopefully Ferry will recognize that and come back for a second visit.