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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Bryan Ferry Puts Some Heart Into His Mannered Warble

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With the musical times passing him by and his recent albums showing little sales punch, Bryan Ferry and his aging image have the look of an endangered species. And when the singer tossed glitter into the air during his first song at the Pantages Theatre on Wednesday, it looked like a desperate, flailing attempt to recapture the past.

Then Ferry proceeded to turn in a charming, involving concert, bringing a touch of playfulness to his wounded-romantic persona and summoning more conviction than you’d think possible. He didn’t break character, he didn’t break ground, but he put some heart into his mannered warble, and the performance of his nine musicians evinced respect for his music and for his audience.

In fact, Ferry seemed to know that the band was the real spark of the show, and he allowed them full rein. The evening came palpably alive during Melvin Davis’ awesomely physical bass solo, where it seemed very likely that he’d snap his instrument’s neck with the fingers of his left hand.

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Ferry and company turned his music’s split personality to their advantage. In the richly atmospheric mood pieces such as “Slave to Love” and “Swept Away,” supremely sensuous swells of sound filled the party-tent stage set over the lapping funk beats. The rockers, ranging as far back as Roxy Music’s “Virginia Plain” and “Do the Strand,” didn’t have any real grit, but grit isn’t the currency in Ferry’s dream-pop realm. Engaging artifice is his game, and he still plays like a master.

* Bryan Ferry and Combustible Edison play tonight at the Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., 8 p.m. Sold out. (213) 480-3232.

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