Bryan Ferry: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Bryan Ferry at Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall

Bryan Ferry at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall

On an evening that promised so much, Getintothis’ Mark Greenwood finds Bryan Ferry in a nauseatingly perfunctory mood and seeks greater fulfilment in a basement karaoke bar.

Ideas around authenticity and the ‘aura’ of original objects are especially complex in terms of mediatisation and the live music event. Back in the 1930s the philosopher Walter Benjamin described an absence of ritualised art forms in the 20th Century, suggesting that art required new modes of thinking, especially in relation to its reproducibility and mass consumption.

Getintothis meditate on Benjamin’s ideas parallel to our own mass consumption of Doom Bar in the packed bar of the Philharmonic and look forward to our rendezvous with Bryan Ferry, an important figure when considering the trappings of modernist alienation and its speculations on luxurious, corporate fetishism.

Ferry has previously been described as a postmodern architect whose designs document decades of decadence. Positioned in a variety of rock dimensions ranging from hyperspace sex prog to nu-bop jazz spunk, Ferry’s voice endures and speculates on a 20th Century bohemianism shrouded in cocaine and Babycham. Ferry’s influence on a range of music genres, particularly punk, post-punk and new romanticism has been well documented and, as devoted admirers of Ferry’s output, we’re especially excited about tonight’s show.

It all starts well in a venue that’s packed to the rafters. Ferry eases through material from the latest Avonmore album, elegantly poised and as sleek as predicted. The sound is ok but not ideal and the band looks like they’re only going through the motions. By the time Ferry reaches his classic material we feel quite nauseous on the slices of nostalgia dished out, each framed by arrogant posturing and half-baked pub band endings.

It appears the Philharmonic audience are happy to bask in the unashamedly conservative ambience, warmly applauding Ferry’s repetitive and machine like emissions while wafting themselves with signed programmes. However, after a series of pointless instrumental passages and insincere gestures towards the crowd we become quite bored and frustrated with a commitment and effort that we can only describe as insipid.

Any sense of care and honesty appears to evaporate from Ferry’s signature dishes as the band reel off hits with punk disco measure and unimaginative blandness. There’s no heart and soul to the performance and we feel like slaves to Pinot Grigio corporate kinkiness rather than the dark eroticism that used to echo endlessly in Ferry’s visions of the burlesque. Any sense of the singer’s former innovation and radicalism has dissipated and the gig feels more like a drag than a drug.

So, we eventually swap the bourgeois affectations of Hope Street and somehow end up in a dungeon on Renshaw Street re-enacting Ferry’s visions of pomposity through the medium of karaoke and cheap Foster’s lager. Despite our own dilapidated interpretations of Ferry’s oeuvre there’s at least a sense of candour to our actions as we wallow in mediatised reproduction and a sweaty labour mysteriously side-stepped by Ferry and his troupe of dummies.

All we have to show for it is a bad hangover and sore knees the next morning. Could you pass the paracetamol please?

Pictures by Getintothis’ Martin Waters.




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