Bryan Ferry’s witty combining of art-rock musical constructions, post-modern lyrical detachment and Sinatra-esque couture can be subsumed at times by his unfocused career choices. He’s been making solo albums since Roxy Music’s hey day, and he never seems to stay in one place long enough to establish a foothold. And his taste in cover songs is even more confounding.
This often disjointed eclecticism (he’s been, by turns, a rocker, a new-waver, a crooner, a cabaret singer) is given a broader focus on a concert recording like Live in Lyon,, as Ferry smooths out the edges of his endless experimentalism — and connects the dots in a career that’s kind of been all over the place.
Appearing on this September 24, 2013 release from Eagle Rock as part of the Nuits de Fourviere Festival, Ferry was touring behind 2010′s Olympia, a set of mostly original material that followed (weirdly enough) the 2007 Dylanesque tribute project. In keeping, he immediately sets about trying to blend elements of those two albums with key moments from before like “Don’t Stop the Dance” and “Avalon.” On paper, of course, it should never work. Could there be any more disparate moments in rock than “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and “Love is the Drug”? Toss in Lou Reed (“What Goes On”), some Memphis soul (“Hold On, I’m Coming”) and a John Lennon tune (“Jealous Guy,”) and Live in Lyon looks — on paper, at least — like a train hurtling toward smoking ruin.
But the ever-fashionable, ever-downbeat Ferry, somehow — through the sheer force of super-suave will, very nearly pulls off all of it. There is an intoxicating sense of brooding, this unifying atmosphere of sad grandeur, that creates emotional pathways which didn’t exist before. A catalog that always seemed to wander finds a new purpose with Live in Lyon.