I experienced one of those transcendent musical moments at the Santa Barbara Bowl Saturday (4/19/14): toward the end of a flawless concert Bryan Ferry segued from the hypnotic “Avalon” into the all-out, high-energy rock of “Love Is the Drug.” The three ladies and one man standing in front of me started bouncing uncontrollably, and we all competed to sing as loud as we could. While I have always liked the song, it was never on my Greatest Hits List, but Ferry’s band, and the Bowl setting, infused it with so much power that I am afraid to hear the song again on record – it will sound so thin and pale in comparison. Ferry himself was all elegant decadence (or decadent elegance), with chiseled good looks, a dark floral dinner jacket and just enough moves for a 69-year-old. His was not an oldies act – in fact he was here between gigs at Coachella – and he was not out of place with the much younger members of his group.
Tremendously popular in the U.K. but always a secondary figure in America, Ferry is part of an amazing cohort bred in late- and postwar Britain: born in the four-year span from 1943-47 were, just to pick out some very individual characters, Mick Jagger, Ray Davies, Bryan Ferry, David Bowie and Elton John, all of whom I have now seen. [P.S. Ferry’s performance of these songs at Coachella the weekend before, seen on YouTube, conveyed none of the abovementioned magic; but at the Bowl, there were 4,300 people there just to see him, in what I assume was a superior setting.]