Art-pop icon Bryan Ferry plays a full-album set of Roxy Music’s Avalon | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Art-pop icon Bryan Ferry plays a full-album set of Roxy Music’s Avalon 

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click to enlarge Bryan Ferry

Bryan Ferry

marek jezierski / flickr

Decades ago, Bryan Ferry succumbed to an ailment that I’ve dubbed “Cheap Trick Syndrome”: that is, when young, hungry artists winkingly dive into a genre with tongue planted firmly in cheek but eventually become the very thing they were once all but parodying. Cheap Trick’s gleeful, over-the-top late-70s take on arena rock devolved by the 80s into soggy, irony-free, lighters-aloft anthems such as “The Flame” (they share the category “bands who’ve gone from fun to flaccid” with Van Halen). Ferry, on the other hand, jumped the shark in a genre you might call “jet-setting Euro crooner.” In art-glam group Roxy Music, founded in 1970, he first lampooned this style with overblown outfits and excessive mannerisms, but in time he became indistinguishable from his lounge-lizard character. So be it. Ferry has now been at ease in this persona for decades, wearing biz-casual suits and sipping champagne while tackling mostly classic-rock covers such as John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” and Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” in his inimitable velvety voice. Roxy Music disbanded in 1976 and again in 1983, and they’ve been silent since a series of 40th-anniversary shows in 2011—unless you count the six songs they played this spring at their induction into the so-called Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That honor has spurred a revival of interest in the group, and for this tour, Ferry is cashing in by performing Roxy’s ultrasmooth final LP, Avalon, in its entirety. Released in 1982, Avalon has probably inspired more yuppie baby making than Sade or Celine Dion. Its slick synths and chill tempos help make it a piece of glossy continental-pop perfection, and the hit “More Than This” reinforced Roxy Music’s standing (and by extension Ferry’s) as international adult-contemporary sensations. At recent shows Ferry has also played older, edgier Roxy Music tunes, among them “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” and “Virginia Plain,” plus highlights from his solo catalog such as “Slave to Love” and “Can’t Let Go.” Ferry’s most recent album, last year’s Bitter-Sweet, arose from his involvement with Babylon Berlin, a period drama for German TV that’s set in Weimar Germany (and is now available in English on Netflix). Released under the name Bryan Ferry & His Orchestra, with Ferry acting as composer, bandleader, and singer, the album features Roxy Music and solo Ferry tunes reworked as ersatz 1920s jazz, and some of the midperiod Roxy songs it adapts (“Boys and Girls,” “Dance Away”) have also appeared on set lists from the current tour, albeit in their original versions. Ferry is 73 years old, so the time to see him in action is now—I’m sure this living legend can still do his decadent thing without even breaking a sweat.   v

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