There’s something about a skinny crooner, even if he did cut his teeth during the early 1970s fronting a glam rock band. Embarking on his first tour since 1994 to promote “As Time Goes By,” an album of 1930s standards, former Roxy Music lead singer Bryan Ferry easily wowed a savvy throng with a deft mix of classy Jerome Kern and Jimmy McHugh standards coupled with hits from his solo career and Roxy Music days.
Although the audience clearly identified with Ferry’s pop nuggets, the sheer mastery of the nine-piece jazz band, an attractive femme string quartet and harpist, fronted by Ferry’s reverential and unique warbling of half-century old standards that few today can identify with, seemed to overwhelm the audience at times.
Ferry makes sense of these classic tunes in a way the composers intended, without sounding nerdy or old fashioned. Staying true to a bygone era and yet sounding utterly contemporary — not an easy feat.
Show opened with spirited solo perfs by the harpist (Julia Thornton), the string quartet and finally the band itself that effectively set up the audience up for an evening of sophisticated tunes.
Ferry began with a breathless, uptempo version of Kern’s “The Way You Look Tonight.” Following “Love Me or Leave Me” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” (which is not on the current album), he performed more familiar crowd-pleasers such as the hauntingly ethereal “Casanova” from Roxy’s 10-year-old “Country Life” disc, “Avalon,” a great cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” and the blues standard “Let’s Stick Together.”
As great as the audience reaction to Ferry’s album was, it was obvious what they really identified with during his first encore: “Love Is the Drug.” (Fans will get a real treat Feb. 1 when Virgin re-releases 10 Roxy Music titles). Unfortunately, “Drug” made the new album’s title track “As Time Goes By” (which was performed after “Love”) appear anti-climatic.