Bryan Ferry, the sharply-dressed, quivery-voiced singer who has been making amazing music for more than four decades, paid a return visit to the Santa Barbara Bowl on Saturday night, delighting the audience with songs spanning his whole career with Roxy Music and, to a lesser extent numbers wise, as a solo artist.
He was in the area for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival, whose proximity to Santa Barbara continues to make April a great month for music in the 805.
Like the first Roxy Music album and Ferry's career in music, the concert kicked off with "Re-Make/Re-Model," an art rock romp that cheekily references other songs in its outro. Three additional songs from those early days — "Ladytron", "If There Is Something" and Roxy Music's first hit single, "Virginia Plain" — were also on the program, together showing how fully-formed Roxy Music's musical vision was right from the start, and how well their music has aged.
The audience was treated to other early Roxy Music gems, including the hit "Love Is the Drug," "Editions of You," "Both Ends Burning" and "Casanova," the latter off my personal favorite Roxy Music album, Country Life, here toned down a bit from the album version but cool nonetheless.
Ferry and his backing band, a mixed-gender six-piece with two background singers, also nailed the slicker sounds of Roxy Music's Avalon phase, one of the more successful evolutions of a 1970s band into the 1980s, plus the like-minded solo songs "Kiss and Tell," "Slave to Love" and the most recent song on the setlist, 2010's "Reason or Rhyme," which showed that Ferry continues to be a master of smooth and sensual pop music.
The show ended with a cover of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy," which was a hit for Roxy Music in 1981 and which nicely reminded the audience of Ferry's strengths as an interpreter of other people's music.
Suave, sophisticated and sharp, Ferry's still got it!
Re-Make/Re-Model (Roxy Music)
Kiss and Tell
Slave to Love
Ladytron (Roxy Music)
Same Old Blues (JJ Cale cover)
If There Is Something (Roxy Music)
Oh Yeah (Roxy Music)
Reason or Rhyme
Stronger Through the Years (Roxy Music)
Tara (Roxy Music)
Take a Chance With Me (Roxy Music)
Avalon (Roxy Music)
Casanova (Roxy Music)
Love Is the Drug (Roxy Music)
Virginia Plain (Roxy Music)
Both Ends Burning (Roxy Music)
Editions of You (Roxy Music)
Running Wild (Roxy Music)
Jealous Guy (John Lennon song)
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.