Saturday, 26 October 2013

Review of Bryan Ferry at the Lowry Theatre in Manchester, October 25, 2013

It all seemed a bit of a nuisance to Bryan last night.

He'd spent the afternoon tweeting from Manchester art gallery during the afternoon while the rest of us dodged the Salford thunder storms and sipped Old Speckled Hen in the theatre foyer.

Then he sent out his seven-piece, black-tied jazz band for 15 minutes to play Jeeves and Wooster versions of some his best-loved songs. So we got novelty 1920s arrangements of Do The Strand, Slave To Love and Avalon with no sight nor sound of the man we'd paid to see sing them. Very irritating.

Eventually out he strolls, lean, weary and resplendent in a flowery dinner jacket and loosely fastened bow tie, with an understated nod of acknowledgement to the Lowry's packed and purple audience.

He approaches the microphone centre stage and opens his mouth. But, horror, what comes out is not the rich and creamy sound of Roxy Music, but a frail and fragile whisper, barely audible above the band, so wheezy at the high notes that it sounds as though the microphone might have a loose connection. It didn't improve much as he ploughed through an uninspiring set list.

For such a veteran professional, he also spent far too long with his back to the crowd facing his lady drummer, as though this was the soundcheck rather than the performance. Then he walked off stage in the middle of one of many horrible and hairy guitar solos, abandoning us to suffer its unwelcome duration on our own.

Things got  worse when Bryan returned with a misjudged tribute to Charlie Parker. We all sighed and sank in our purple seats wishing he'd done a tribute to more Bryan Ferry songs instead.

We did get his version of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and a crowd-pleasing Oh Yeah - lots of groaning at the end - before he sent everyone off to the interval toilet queues whistling Lennon's Jealous Guy.

It was all a bit flat, not helped by the killjoy Lowry usher in the red tee shirt who urgently wobbled over to instruct a paying customer to stop pointing her mobile phone at Bryan, a quaintly Canute-like stand against the digital tide.

Things did warm up a bit in the second half, his two-and-a-half backing singers dancing a joyful charleston in sparkling green, Bryan sneaking on stage to sit behind an electric piano, until finally the stalls crowd rose to its feet for the triumphant Love Is The Drug and Let's Stick Together, with its glorious one-note sax-blast opening.

But where was the between-song banter, the warmth, the joy of playing to Manchester's Ferry faithful? It was a 
messy, soulless, disconnected gig rather than the "Evening With" promised on the ticket.

At the end he waved and blew kisses and returned to the mic to quip, "So i guess I'll see you again tomorrow."

Not if I see you first, Bryan.

On stage: 8pm
Interval: 9pm for 20 mins
End: 10.25pm after a one-song encore.
Stalls ticket: £67


  1. I must have been at a different concert. I've been watching Roxy Music and Bryan for over 35 years now and while his voice has changed (as voices do) it is now all the more poignant and beautiful for its different range and nuances - Carrickfergus made me cry, it was so lovely.

    Bryan Ferry has never had much banter with the crowd (are you sure you're not thinking of Ken Dodd?) so the the lovely smile, the acknowledgement of the crowd and the few words he does say are like little pearls.

    His set list was brilliant - there were some little played gems from 'The Bride Stripped Bare,' as well as songs from both Roxy and Bryan's back catalogue which were played to perfection by the accomplished and finely honed musicians.

    Your jibe at the backing singers is disgusting btw are you the idiot behind us who asked to move because he said his seat smelled? It takes all sorts.

    1. Thanks for commenting on my blog, Dominic. Your steadfast loyalty over the years does you proud. My seat smelled fine, by the way. That must have been another idiot behind you. I presume you're going back again tonight?

  2. Searching for a review of the BFO Lowry gigs, I came across your blog .
    I was considering a full reply to some of the ,what I felt was, misguided criticism.
    However, on reading your " two-and-a-half backing singers" slur ,I soon realised constructive criticism of a bigots review was a waste of my time.
    I therefore thought I`d post this rebuke in the hope that if you ever consider continue posting your ill advised, ill informed meanderings ,you`ll keep the crass misogyny to yourself..........Better still, rethink the idea of thinking that a blog of such poor content is worth sharing.

  3. Thanks for the advice, BFRM fan, whoever you are. Duly noted.

  4. I also think you went to the wrong concert.Just seen him at Nottingham,absolutely brilliant,the musicians he has chosen to back him on this tour are all top class.There is something magical about a live brass section and the 2 female backing singers were captivating,not only excellent vocalists but good dancers as well.
    The venue was packed and everyone was on their feet during the last set,I can only tell it how it is and it was excellent entertainment,get a ticket if there are any left-you will have a great night.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Steve. Manchester was early on in the tour so maybe he's warmed up a bit now. Interesting you're talking about the singers and musicians rather than Bryan, though - it was supposed to be An Evening with him!

  5. Came across your blog whilst trawling the net for like minded ferry fans, who like me, were a little bit miffed at what was presented as 'an evening with Bryan Ferry' and so far I had come up short, until now. Many people have commented positively on the first few nights of the tour. However, my experience of the Ipswich concert paints a very different picture.
    Like a great many people I too have been a fan of the man and Roxy for over 40 years, in which time I have obtained just about every recording, mix, DVD etc. existing, as well having seen every tour (apart from one) post 1975. But, unlike them I do not see everything the man does through rose tinted specs and in this particular case do not see your report as being too far from the truth, despite the obvious playfully spiteful undertone of the piece.
    Now I can't hide the fact that I did find the Jazz Age album a bit odd. A BF recording with no involvement by the man himself except for a production nod. Although not completely out of character with the man's love of all things coolly nostalgic but all the same not a Ferry album, more a Colin Good tribute album. But, despite the set containing a big chunk of 'Jazz age' I was willing to give it a go and all in all was not totally disappointed. What did disappoint me was that after they had done their bit they didn't 'exit stage left' to be replaced by the BF band but hung around to provide an odd feel to every song for the rest of the set. Most of the songs were clearly selected to either maximise Bryan's ailing voice, which admittedly can still carry a tune, or to accommodate the jazz boys but it only resulted in creating what was a disappointing set list, except for the usual final salvo of classics. The only saving grace was the presence of Oliver Thompson whose solo at the end of Out of the Blue was the highlight of the night, the usually commanding Colin Good not withstanding.
    However, my biggest disappointment was with the promise the tour title presented. This was my chance to finally meet my hero face to face. An opportunity I met with both relish and trepidation. They say you should never meet your heroes, an old saying which I feared would ring true.
    The promises of a front row seat, a bag of goodies, a photo taken with my hero and 'an audience' with the man himself with whatever life changing experience that would bring.
    Well, what did I get for the kings ransom my ticket cost. A first class view of a bank of 'front of stage speakers' which put paid to any chance of hearing the sound mix as it was intended, a restricted view of the stage, so much so that I had to wait until I stood up to even see who was playing the sax/keyboards and drums, a worms eye view of BF and a stiff neck.

  6. cont...Never mind I had the after show party to look forward to. Well, to say the PR team had not researched the venue would be an understatement. We were shown into a sparsely decorated room with a stage and clusters of tables & chairs and offered a drink, white wine or orange juice. A number of the jazz boys took to the stage and treated us to a jam session, nice. Bryan strolled in wearing a coat and scarf, clearly he wasn't planning on staying too long, and we were ushered up to have our 6x4 photo taken against a blank beige painted wall. A quick shake of the hand, a slight uncomfortable pleasantry and it was please.
    Some familiar people stayed to chat for a few minutes but it was all over very quickly and he was gone. If I had been the pushy type I might have made a nuisance of myself and got a bit more out of the man, but I am not and to be truthful by that time I was a totally despondent and just couldn't be bothered. So, the man is the shy retiring type and this type of thing does not come easy, so why do it? It was by any stretch of the imagination minimalist and poorly staged and, in my mind at least, did nothing for the Ferry 'brand'. This was a theatre for heavens sake why not dim the lights and create an ambiance, provide a back drop for the photo shoot - there was a vintage cinema projector outside the room that would have have been perfect – provide a cheap glass of champagne, an A4 photo instead of an uninspiring 6x4 and for the love of Bryan at least sign the bloody thing!
    I have looked forward to this for nearly a year only to come away bitterly disappointed thinking it could have been so much better. Maybe I expect too much in this day and age to think that whoever was responsible for booking the venue had done their research. Maybe it was left up to the theatre to provide the facilities in which case they failed miserably.
    If you have made it to the end of this heartfelt release I thank you for your time and a big sorry to David for clogging up his blog, but you did start it.

    1. I have to say I seriously considered buying one of those VIP tickets for the Manchester show - despite what you'd think by the other comments on this blog I'm a really big fan of Bryan and Roxy and thought it would be a great chance to meet a living musical legend.
      But having read your account, I'm really glad I didn't. What a shame. The 6x4 unsigned photo is the final insult. Bryan's people are doing his reputation nothing but harm with that kind of lame effort.
      It's a shame you can't get the word out to a wider audience to warn-off other fans who may be sucked in.
      But for the money he's charging for the "audience" everyone should expect a bit more.

  7. Oh for God's sake, what did you expect? Dinner, drinks and a private evening with him?
    For the extra £120 approx you paid for your VIP package, you received a signed programme, laminate, glass if wine, front row seat nd you got to meet one of the most important, influential people in modern music.

  8. Why make this clear attempt to spoil the rest of this special tour for those still waiting to go? Stay away and let his actual fans enjoy the show and special evening they've waited for

  9. The reviews of this tour by actual critics and people who are not bigoted, are exceptional and highly praise him and the entire orchestra and band. But you wanted a bigger photo and people of a certain height on stage. Seriously, call the people you usually call for a moan

    1. You must have more money than sense if you think £120 for a programme, a postcard-sized photo and a glass of plonk represents good value. And "bigot" is an interesting choice of word. It means, "One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ." Remind you of anyone, gsm2you?

  10. You're clots to funny. Do you hear me speaking recklessly as you have about anyone on that stage? Or anywhere? I'm a Bryan Ferry fan, I'm not rich, just a fan. Here is my question to you - why did you pay that sum, only then to act like you'd been mugged? You met the man, you had your photo taken with the man, you got wine, you got signed programme, you sat front row. What did you expect? Seriously, what? But more to my original point, what do you get out if deliberately trying to spoil this special event for the people who have waited a year to see the man here?
    I don't understand you. You call yourself a fan, act like one and support the act you claim to have followed all those years.

  11. gsm2you: You have clearly misunderstood the point of my reply. I have not openly criticised the concert as I was in no position to so due to the facts stated, namely a poor view of the stage and being too close to the speakers, something I had not anticipated after having considered myself fortunate at the time to be one of the first people to purchase the VIP tickets at Ipswich.
    I attended the show with an open mind but admittedly with some concern over a sizeable part of the set being from the Jazz Age album. This was overtaken by the fact that I was actually going to meet the man that has played such a big part in my life, as sad as that may sound. Try to see beyond your personal grievance and see it from the view of a fan who expected so much but was ultimately disappointed. If I had purchased a cheaper ticket, which would have turned out to be a far better view, and had not had the added expectancy of meeting my hero I probably would have enjoyed the concert more. However, the circumstances were different and I was bitterly disappointed as a result. I have intentionally not been overly critical of BF as he was polite and friendly, if not a bit distant, but I have strongly questioned the presentation and management of the 'evening with BF' after show party package, on the night. Other venues may have been better staged and provided surroundings more conducive with the BF persona, which after all is a big part of the man's allure.
    I have read the reviews and am disappointed that I did not experience the same enjoyment as the many favourable reports expressed. Maybe this is a chapter in Bryan's illustrious career I will put down to being 'not to my taste' and will move on to the next.
    On a more personal note I think you are confusing with David's blog with my reply. To suggest that I am a bigot has no foundation in fact. A misguided comment that I will put down to an over enthusiasm to defend the man in your blind adoration.

    1. "Blind adoration", just a fan would have sufficed.
      Listen, if I have taken your comments in a way other than they were intended, then I unreservedly apologise to you.
      I just do not understand any 'fan' who runs down both the entire show and band at the start if a tour and goes on to complain that his photo wasn't big enough.
      I believe you simply didn't like this style if music or the way he played it and I believe that you wanted more personal one2one time with him. That's fair enough. Please though, there are fans who like you, have paid a fair amount to see this and they may well be perfectly happy, even ecstatic to get what you got that night for the price you paid for it.
      Honestly, I don't think it's too much for what he gave and I don't really see how he could have given more, being the type of person he is.
      Bowie would have been there all smiles, signing and been charm personified. And I would have lost the power of everything. But Bryan Ferry does his own thing and maybe he shouldn't be doing a meet & greet like this, it's not in his comfort area at all, but you get to meet him if you buy the VIP package.
      I think that alone is worth it.
      Not blind adoration, just a fan

  12. well i just bought the ticket *sorry to join the conversation* xD . and i must say , the tickets are indeed very expensive! But I know it will be so worth it to be able to see my idol live *i couldn t afford to buy the VIP ticket* because i am going to buy the train ticket *he s not coming to my country so i have to go to the nearest one*
    But for me it would be a dream come true to being able to take a photo with Him....
    I hope he doesn t mind. It must be indeed very hard to handle with so many many fans , and he s not very young now so this can be very exausting , but ...well know ... big fan coming from so much far away waiting for this moment so many years now... first time having the money to see him... I really hope he can take 1 photo with me in the end. even if not VIP . either way i m going to see one o the best shows in the world , and it will be amazing :) Cheers to all * And forgive me if i ve spelled anything wrong... *

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