Bryan Ferry @ Kings Park
w/ I’m Talking, Models, Stephen Cummings
Thursday, February 21, 2019
Rock and roll’s most enduring sex symbol and one of the few artists worthy of being called a contemporary of David Bowie in the 70s and 80s, former Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry returned for what must surely be the final time on Thursday.
Headlining the 50th show at Kings Park for a day on the green and local promoters Mellen Events, Ferry was joined by Models and Stephen Cummings early, the latter a late replacement for Died Pretty after their singer Ron Peno was diagnosed with oesophegeal cancer and was set to commence immediate treatment as of just 10 days ago.
Most interest was in main support I’m Talking, the 80s Australian pop band led by Kate Ceberano who reformed especially for the tour, playing together for the first time since breaking up in 1987. Largely an unknown commodity for many, the band’s short lived existence (they formed in 1983) produced just one album, but they were renowned in their day for taking sophisticated pop to the Melbourne pub rock scene.
They turned out to be an astute choice of support, with the big sax solos care of new member Brodie Everist a perfect fit for Ferry’s sophisti-pop 80s oeuvre. They even had people out of their seats dancing to hits such as Do You Wanna Be and Trust Me, while Ceberano, ever the entertainer, noted that their cover of Love Don’t Live Here Anymore was a bigger hit here at home than Madonna’s version released around the same time.
Bryan Ferry‘s set was a case of two halves. While he started strong with The Main Thing from Roxy Music’s 1982 album Avalon, followed by yacht rock classic Slave to Love, early favourites such as Ladytron, Oh Yeah and Out of the Blue all seemed to emulate his slicker 80s sound, with guitar very low in the mix and little edge.
While Ferry and his nine-piece band played well, and the string arrangements of numbers such as Bete Noire care of violinist Marina Moore were lovely, the noise restrictions at Kings Park meant these softer selections lacked impact and certain sections of the crowd grew restless. It was a very different vibe to Roxy Music’s scintillating reformation shows of the last decade.
However, from the moment the elegant curtains parted midway for an edgier criss-cross backdrop, and Ferry launched into 1973 art-rock classic In Every Dream Home a Heartache, the night turned on a dime. The long slow build up as Ferry murmured sweet nothings to his sex doll companion culminated in a crashing crescendo, following which the softly spoken Ferry finally greeted the audience, somewhat sheepishly saying “I hope you’re liking our selection of songs,” in one of his few interactions for the night.
Certainly no one would have complained about what was to follow, as classics such as the Day Tripper-sampling Re-Make/Re-Model and AOR faves More Than This and Avalon came in quick succession. The latter in particular showed off a perfect solo from Australian saxophonist Jorja Chalmers, in one of the night’s most magical moments.
While the crowd had been fairly sedate all night, Ferry had no problems getting them to their feet for Virginia Plain, Love Is the Drug, and a pair of covers that rounded out the night – Jealous Guy and Let’s Stick Together. While Ferry’s own songbook is the equal of nearly anyone in the pop pantheon, these are two numbers he has made completely his own, and the 73-year old’s singular strut was on full display for the latter as we danced with abandon to the sax-laden grooves.
It was a shame the night had to finish there with energy on high – the brilliant Editions of You is closing most sets around the world – but one imagines Perth’s fun police might have turned the sound off otherwise (though it does raise the question of why Ferry didn’t arrive on stage earlier). One thing there is no question of, however, is that if this does turn out to be the last time we see rock’s most elegant elder statesman, he left us on some sort of a high.
Photos by Linda Dunjey