Rather than relying on his most familiar hits to keep everyone’s attention, Bryan Ferry lets the depth of his catalog cast its spell. Last Saturday at the Bowl, Ferry fronted a 10-piece band in anticipation of his upcoming “Bryan Ferry with full orchestra” concert at the Hollywood Bowl, and gave energetic, powerful performances not only of “Slave to Love” and “More Than This” but also of such classic early Roxy Music material as “Editions of You,” “If There Is Something,” and “In Every Dream Home a Heartache.”
Roxy Music’s influence on later artists can hardly be overstated. Bands as different as Talking Heads, DEVO, and the Cramps are all unimaginable without the innovations Ferry and Roxy introduced. By blending song structures and instrumentation from early rock and soul with a cosmopolitan range of vocal styles informed by the arch cabaret music of the European continent, Ferry crashed Kurt Weill’s icy detachment into the bar-walking showmanship of a Big Jay McNeely sax solo. On Saturday, he played harmonica, like Bob Dylan, and sang a stirring version of Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate,” demonstrating his inimitable command of cover songs. The presence in the band of guitarist Chris Spedding, another crucial forerunner of punk, gave the proceedings an added fillip of cool, and the entire evening proved that the best rock remains as fresh as when it was first played.