For so long the king of cool, it’s something of a surprise to see Bryan Ferry cast off his normal reserve and gleefully slap the hands of the front row of the audience at Harrogate International Centre.
It’s as good a measure as any that this concert has been a triumph not only for the former Roxy Music frontman but also his talented and well marshalled 11-piece touring band.
Dressed in dark blue, the 69-year-old singer still cuts a dapper figure and introductory selections from his latest album Avonmore prove his knack for writing tasteful and sophisticated adult pop songs remains as strong as ever.
The set effortlessly shifts up a gear with the fan-friendly Slave To Love and two choice early Roxy Music cuts, Beauty Queen and Ladytron, the latter of which features Ferry at the piano and an impressive solo from Danish lead guitarist Jacob Quistgaard.
Ferry’s skill as an interpretive singer of others’ songs is ably demonstrated with covers of Bob Dylan’s Dream and Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right and a version of Smokes Get In Your Eyes that’s so commanding it makes you momentarily forget that the 80-year-old Jerome Kern show tune has inspired numerous other renditions by artists as diverse as Serge Gainsbourg and Harry Belafonte.
If the set sags briefly with Bete Noire, Zamba and Stronger Through The Years, the decision to leave the stage to Quistgaard, keyboard player Paul Beard, saxophonist Jorja Chalmers and violinist Natalia Bonner for the haunting Roxy Music instrumental Tara is a masterstroke, allowing the quality of musicianship in Ferry’s backline to shine through.
The full band return for a well received Take A Chance With Me after which Ferry positively loosens up, rhapsodising about the venue and the “beautiful” Yorkshire countryside, observing: “There’s nowhere quite like it.”
A giant glitterball descends from the rafters for Midnight Train and More Than This prompts the audience into spontaneous dancing.
The years seem to roll back with a string of hits from Avalon to Love Is The Drug then a thrilling Virginia Plain. During Do The Strand Ferry even plays along on air guitar to a Quistgaard solo.
By the encore the singer has the crowd in the palm of his hand. Let’s Stick Together and Editions Of You are electrifying; Jealous Guy soars extraordinarily towards gospel territory with backing singers Rhianna Kenny, Bobbie Gordon and Ferry’s “old friend” Fonzi Thornton in strong voice.
The beam on Ferry’s face at the end tells the story of a thoroughly enjoyable show for performers and audience alike.
Gig date: May 23