Live Review: Bryan Ferry with Phenomenal Handclap Band at Strathmore Hall, Bethesda, MD – 3rd October 2011

By on Thursday, 13th October 2011 at 4:00 pm

Editor’s note: I would like to thank my fellow Washington area writer Cheryl Demas for being a model of calm and composure during what was a bit of a crazy night.

Years ago on the then-new internet, I started a Duran Duran mailing list / eGroup with a new internet friend. I found out about Roxy Music through Duran Duran, who idolised the band and the sharp dressing of their frontman Bryan Ferry in his immaculate Antony Price designer suits. So adding to my calendar “covering Bryan Ferry” was a bit surreal, and showing up for the gig at the suburban retreat of Strathmore Hall in Bethesda, Maryland, was making me go a bit mad.

Opening for him was the Phenomenal Handclap Band, whom I’ve only seen multiple times but always in a club setting. Them playing a massive stage like Strathmore didn’t suit them: even though they have a relatively big band numbers-wise and have a lot of equipment, they only took up a fraction of the stage. I thought they were a strange fit for an opener for Bryan Ferry, and I was right. The line-up has changed; the have a new female guitarist but have lost one of their two female vocalists. I think the line-up change and the setting affected their sound: it’s just not as warm and full as it once was. They began with ‘You’ll Disappear’ and played their hit from 2009 ’15 to 20′ (prefaced by leader Daniel Collas quipping, “this is a song you may know, or at least your teenager does?”). A couple new songs like ‘Sun and Moon’ went down okay but none were particularly notable. I’ll wait for the new album to be released in 2012.

After the very glam Roxy Music broke up in the early ’80s, Bryan Ferry went on to have a successful solo career. His most recent release ‘Olympia’ (review here) showed him sidling up to a more urban sound admirably. While he did play ‘Alphaville’ from the newest album, the set list was an odd mixture of covers with recognisable Roxy and Ferry solo numbers. Don’t get me wrong, ‘Avalon’ was great, as was ‘Love is the Drug’, the song that finally got people on their feet and dancing. But those came so late in the performance when Ferry should have gotten things started with guns blazing.

Also disappointing was the reliance on his touring bandmates’ solos, during which time the spotlight was directed on someone playing a saxophone, a guitar, etc. People had come to see Bryan Ferry perform, not see someone other than Ferry noodling on a guitar or playing trills on a clarinet while Ferry is playing piano in a darkened corner of the stage. With two quality back catalogues, someone like Bryan Ferry needs not rely on covers, yet he ended with a cover of Sam and Dave’s ‘Hold On, I’m Comin’ when he had plenty of other gems he could have chosen. The encore felt more like an afterthought, with everyone left pondering on how it should have been ‘More Than This’.

More photos and set list after the cut.

Phenomenal Handclap Band Photos:

Bryan Ferry Set List:
The Main Thing
You Can Dance
Slave to Love
Tom Thumb’s Blues
If There is Something
Make You Feel My Love
Kiss and Tell
Boys and Girls
Like a Hurricane
Oh Yeah!
All Along the Watchtower (Jimi Hendrix cover)
Reason or Rhyme
My Only Love
Love is the Drug
Let’s Stick Together
Jealous Guy (John Lennon cover)
Hold On, I’m Comin’ (Sam and Dave cover)

Bryan Ferry Photos:

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