Bryan Ferry

Bryan Ferry Live in Paris at le Grand Rex

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Even in his mid-'70s youth, Bryan Ferry was always a sophisticated cut or two above the average rocker. As comfortable in a tuxedo as he was in gaucho glam, as convincing singing Platters covers as he was with "Virginia Plain," Ferry epitomized stylish cool and old-world charm at a time when the rest of the world was going spaceman crazy. No surprise whatsoever, then, when his solo career finally washed him up on the shores of the big band revival -- the only real wonderment was, what took him so long to get there? The pristine timelessness of the As Time Goes By album remains one of the peaks of Ferry's entire career -- the sheer magnificence of the accompanying live shows doubly so. Accompanied by, indeed, a big band, Ferry set about rearranging highlights of both his solo oeuvre and the early Roxy Music catalog for a lineup that had never dreamed of playing such songs -- a four-piece brass section, a classical string quartet. It was a pretension that could so easily have left him with egg running all down his immaculately tailored suit. Instead, there are a couple of moments when even Ferry looks stunned, barely able to believe he was able to pull it all together so seamlessly. Some of the material, of course, was made for this approach -- four cuts from As Time Goes By itself, a moody "Chance Meeting" and a delightful "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." Tunes like "Avalon," "Oh Yeah," and "Jealous Guy," too, did not exactly need radical surgery to fit into the concept. But they are balanced every step of the way by moments of such surreal grandeur that you're left uncertain whether to laugh or cry. There's a harp being plucked during "Out of the Blue," "Casanova" simply squirms with jungle-heat sultriness, and the violins scratching across the bridge of "Bitter Sweet" are simultaneously as chilling as they are absolutely thrilling. Elsewhere, a boiling "Love Is the Drug" could have stepped straight out of a hyperactive Stax songbook, while a positively maniacal "Let's Stick Together" prompts even the dinner jackets, fiddles, and harp to leap uncontrollably out of their seats to rock Le Grand Rex to its foundations. Beautifully filmed, powerfully recorded, and as exquisitely choreographed as a Bryan Ferry show should be, the Bryan Ferry Live in Paris at le Grand Rex DVD packs no significant extras. But still, it ranks among those few (very few) in-concert videos that you'll want to watch again and again. And to think, less than a year later he'd be filming another as the cameras rolled on the Roxy Music reunion. Some people really do get better all the time.