Rock stars don’t come any more sophisticated or iconic than Bryan Ferry, who spent last Saturday night showing an enthusiastic crowd that he’s still got a lot more going for him than just a great wardrobe. Clad in a floral brocade smoking jacket and looking fit and trim at 68, Ferry led a crack young band of eight musicians through a fan’s dream of a set list. Starting out with “Re-Make/Re-Model,” off of the first Roxy Music album, Ferry quickly reached all the way forward to his huge solo hit, “Slave to Love.” Remarkably self-effacing for a frontman — he steered the band through several numbers from behind a keyboard that was tucked away upstage left — Ferry nevertheless projected his carefully crafted persona with precision and power, especially on Roxy classics like “If There Is Something,” “Editions of You,” and “Both Ends Burning.”
Bryan Ferry at the Santa Barbara Bowl
Although these jagged, challenging, avant-garde anthems from the first two Roxy Music albums remain less familiar to most fans than his later work, they sounded great live, with a twisted, mashed-up sensibility that felt very much of the moment. As for later Roxy and Ferry hits like “More Than This,” “Avalon,” and “Dance Away,” they continue to incite enthusiastic “This is my jam!” responses from the same folks who partied and made out to this music back in the 1980s. Apparently a little time is all it takes to bring the two sides of one great artist together.