TICKETS TORN IN HALF: August 10,1988-BRYAN FERRY @ RADIO CITY

Aug 10,1988: BRYAN FERRY @ Radio City (Jon Pareles NYT)

Love is all-consuming in Bryan Ferry’s songs; it’s a raw need like drug addiction, a spiritual sacrament, a paradise and an eerie limbo. His concert Tuesday at Radio City Music Hall, starting a three-night stand, opened with a swirl and chatter of percussion and the sight of a censer wafting the smoke of frankincense – invoking a ritual – as Mr. Ferry emerged to play his self-created role as idealized romantic crooner. Dressed in a formal suit and black necktie and performing with stylized, slow-motion gestures, he sang with a closed-in tone and a slight bleating quality, without the warmth of ordinary pop delivery, but sounding all the more vulnerable to the pains of love.

Mr. Ferry’s set roamed from his recent solo albums to the songs he wrote for Roxy Music in the 1970’s, and it suggested that he has taken his own romantic messages to heart. His early Roxy Music songs, such as ”In Every Dream Home a Heartache” and ”Casanova,” were clever and angular, with lopsided melodies and lyrics that implicated the outside world in his lovers’ deceptions and tribulations. Through the years he has rounded off those edges; his recent songs use rolling, swirling funk, often with a Caribbean undercurrent in which his words can be, like his characters, swept away by a beat or a feeling. The lyrics of his current album, ”Bete Noire,” are almost all cliches bobbing to the surface of the music and then drifting away. The effect is atmospheric rather than literary, enraptured rather than analytical.

The band was geared to Mr. Ferry’s newer songs. It played the Roxy Music songs dutifully, inserting jazz-rock and heavy-metal solo flourishes rather than Roxy’s clattering, anarchic noise. But when it came to the smooth, slightly ominous funk of ”The Main Thing” or the subdued rock of ”Kiss and Tell,” the band enfolded Mr. Ferry’s voice the way romance envelops his characters, shutting out everything but the nuances of passion.