- 28 Jul 18
The Dichotomy Of The Two Ferries As Rain Fails To Spoil Play On The Trinity Pitch. Our Man At The Stumps: Pat Carty.
I must say, there was a very pleasant atmosphere about the place as the Hot Press party arrived in early and availed themselves of the refreshments. These Trinity gigs are a capital wheeze – they’re just the right size, and the city centre location certainly makes ingress and egress easier matters than your Malahides or Marlay Parks. Fingers crossed the weatherman was talking through his hat.
If you have a hankering for a bit of Declan O’Rourke crossed with The Beautiful South and a touch of late-not-great period Van Morrison, all topped off with, Lord help us, Christie Hennessy, then Galway man Ultan Conlon might be for you. It’s not my bag of meat at all, but he seems like a nice chap, so the best of luck to him. That patter could use a bit of work, mind.
The hat comes off and the heart goes out to Ferry for being here at all after the week he’s had. If the show had been cancelled after such a personal tragedy, it would have been disappointing but understandable, but as he follows the band on, as they go into “The Main Thing” from 1982’s Avalon, he manages to look much more together than expected. It is Bryan Ferry after all so he was never going to walk out on stage in a tracksuit and a pair of runners, but it is impressive to see such a handsome man in a tasteful black jacket/white shirt combo. The band look the part too – the saxophonist/oboist and the violin player look like they’ve flown in from some Swiss finishing school that only accepts super models.
‘Slave To Love’ and ‘Don’t Stop The Dance’ are the soundtrack to some impossibly glamorous cocktail party that you or I would never be let into. The backing singers are working the cowbells and Ferry is doing the “Bryan Ferry Dance” – shoulders and arms swaying almost as if he’s sashaying on the spot on some imagined catwalk. The finger goes into the ear for “love is all that matters”, he is impossibly cool.
There are, of course, two Bryan Ferries – Mr Suave Dinner Jacket who we’ve been dancing to, but also the art school weirdo with the quiff and the leather kacks. We get a throwback to that earlier incarnation with ‘Ladytron’ from the first seismic Roxy Music album – Ferry’s at the keyboards as the oboe and the drums do the heavy work, assisted by none other than Chris Spedding – he’s worked with everyone from The Sex Pistols to The Wombles – on electric guitar. Even in this setting, the song sounds satisfyingly weird, and Ferry can still carry off that robot seducer act – “I'll use you and I'll confuse you, and then I'll lose you, still you won't suspect me”. ‘Out Of The Blue’ from 74’s Country Life – the one with the cover I had to keep hidden from my Ma – sounds great too – the soprano saxophone battling with the screaming violin.
As there are two Ferries, there are perhaps two Ferry crowds, and I suspect the contingent that prefer the cocktail stuff are the better represented tonight, and there’s nothing wrong with that either. As the band begin the brilliant ‘Oh Yeah’ a fairly refreshed gent behind me delightedly tells his mate that he loves this one, ‘Avalon’, and, despite his pal’s protestations, he gustily sings ‘Avalon’ the whole way through it. Perhaps that was his plan for the night, no matter what came from the stage. He looked like he was having a good time, so I moved away and left him to it.
The crash and bang of ‘Casanova’ threatens to teether over, just like the original recording, but in a good way, but it’s followed by a bit of a dip – ‘A Wasteland’, ‘Windswept’, and ‘Zamba’ are hardly anyone’s favourite corners of Ferry’s solo work, and he starts to lose the crowd’s attention. ‘Stronger Through The Years’, played by the band in front of a backdrop that looks like etch-a-sketch patterns, and a bouncy ‘Tokyo Joe’ bring things back a small bit, but ‘My Only Love’ – the band are now playing inside what looks like a snow globe – sees people wandering again. ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ - that properly-out-there everyday tale of a boy and his love for an inflatable doll – is a treat for the obsessives but again, it’s probably not what most of the crowd are here for. The same might be said for ‘If There Is Something’ and ‘Remake/Remodel’ although they’re very welcome to these ears. Best debut album ever? It’s certainly up there.
Met Éireann had sent out a weather warning earlier in the day, and, despite our prayers, the heavens properly opened just as Ferry was crooning about scores of Potatoooooeees. For some of the crowd, this was the final straw. It was strange to see, but attendees had been given the option, as they were the previous Monday for Grace Jones, to bring their own fold-up chairs if they so desired. The right hand side of the space then had almost a mini camp site of lawn furniture. As the heavy rain fell, a good few decided to take their cathedrae and head for an exit.
But something else happened too. A lot more people, my companion Ms Callaghan and I included, started laughing, declared “fuck it!” and decided to make the most of things. As the band launched into ‘More Than This’, we were all doing the “Bryan Ferry Dance”, in fact, we were “Bryan Ferrying” the shit out of it! Swanning around, clicking our fingers and roaring along – the party had kicked off. ‘Avalon’ followed – perhaps my mate from earlier was now singing ‘Angel Eyes’? – and then into ‘Love Is The Drug’ and the marvellous ‘Virginia Plain’ – the normally reserved cricket pitch was now like some drowned school disco, it was a genuine joy to see everyone laughing it up, frugging away, and having a good time.
At this point in the set, according to my research, Ferry normally goes off and waits for the encore, but for what ever reason – perhaps he could see everyone was having a ball in the rain, perhaps the curfew was approaching, or perhaps the poor man just wanted to get home, although he seemed to take strength from the affection the crowd showered on him – he kept going, into a rocking ‘Let’s Stick Together’ and the closing ‘Jealous Guy’, which left everyone – arty weirdos and eighties heroes – satisfied.
Yes, he was singing at least a couple of keys lower than on those immortal records, and this from a man who was hardly Pavarotti in the first place, but he pulled off that delicate balancing act between the two Bryans and, thanks in no small part to the to-hell-with-it-let’s-party attitude of the crowd, sent us home smiling.