Gig Review: Ezra Furman @ The Colston Hall
by Alice Lacey
Ezra Furman photographed in London by Baud Postman | via FT.com
I’ll be honest. I’ve struggled with writing this review. Even quaffing a glass of rather excellent Chianti (it’s back people) hasn’t helped the words flow this time round. Indeed, encapsulating the enigma that is Ezra Furman in 700 to 900 words, is, in my mind, a nigh on impossible task but, by the sheer power of bloody mindedness - I’m going to try, goddam it. I should, however, apologise profusely to the die-hard Furman fans out there, who are, no doubt, weeping quietly into their G&Ts, craft beers, savvy blancs (delete as appropriate) as they read this.
First off, just who is Ezra Furman? “Many things” is probably the answer. But a common description might go something along the lines of: a Chicago-born–queer-Jewish-provocateur with a penchant for daisy dresses and sings songs that deal with outcasts-god-love-vampires-angels and everything in-between with a voice that sounds like a bag o’ cats being dragged over hot gravel. But to leave matters there would do the man an injustice.
Indeed, although Furman seems to totter precariously on the precipice of madness, it is fair to say that since breaking into the mainstream with his first solo work The year of No returning in 2012, he has gone on to earn his stripes as a true musician, prolific song writer and dynamic live performer. Indeed, to the delight of his ripening fan base, he has proffered a succession of well crafted-indie-pop albums that drip with sing-along hits, artfully composed and expertly performed. Which brings me to the new Transangelic Exodus (on Belle Union Records) and his near capacity show at Colston Hall that I was lucky enough to attend on behalf of OTB.
"Furman has become a poster boy for issues – sexual politics, mental health, religion and narcissism – that are now as political as personal."
As for the new album itself, Transangelic Exodus is, like every Furman album or EP before it, a direct address to all the slackers, weirdos, outcasts and lost souls out there. Indeed Furman has become a poster boy for issues – sexual politics, mental health, religion and narcissism – that are now as political as personal. However, by way of a plot twist, his new material is delivered in a more profoundly insular and reflective manner (if still bracingly catty) whilst showcasing a myriad of musical styles including (but not limited to) pop, prog-rock, doo-wop, punk, funk, folk, disco and good old rock n roll. Predicable it isn’t.
So, to the live show it-self. During a marathon, twenty-five-song set, Furman certainly gives the audience value for money. Not only did he hurtle though every song from the new album with charismatic aplomb, he also threw in some firm favourites from previous records Day of the Dog and Perpetual Motion People. In addition, he performed one of most distinct, raucous versions of Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love” that I’ve ever heard- and my word it was good. Indeed, this man knows how to work hard for his applause.
"The whole audience were infected with some kind of dancing bug that didn’t stop for the whole 90-minute show."
Those that know me are aware I’m singularly against the idea of dance, or any kind of rhythmic movement in general. Indeed I was born, as they say, with two left feet and a giant dollop of cynicism. However, contrary to all expectations, I literally found myself dancing the night away with Furman and his excellent backing band, The Visions. And I was not alone. Indeed, the whole audience were infected with some kind of dancing bug that didn’t stop for the whole 90-minute show. A testament to good showmanship if ever there was one.
Asides from my new, but short lived love of dance highlights of the night included ‘Suck the Blood from my Wounds’ which was haphazard, uncultivated and lethal in delivery and ‘Maraschino-Red Dress $8.99 At Goodwill’ which, with impish joy, reflected on the freedom of avoiding the synagogue in a style that, in my mind, wasn’t wholly dissimilar to Vampire Weekend but with a hallucinogenic twist. Similarly, ‘Love You So Bad’, which on the album serves as delightful chamber-pop ditty, was played completely unrestrained and with a velocity that careened out of control by the end. All the while the audience kept on dancing, dancing, dancing.
Exhausted but exuberant, Furman finished the evening with the gloriously summery ‘Restless Year’; an excellent way to finish what was arguably one of the most fun, albeit manic gigs I have been to in some time.
Nietzsche said that “you must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star” and whilst I am not Nietzsche’s greatest fan, I believe on this occasion he was right. Furman may be a confusing, shape-shifting creature to write about but there is no doubt he is a dancing star and as such, deserves a listen.