The Psychedelic Furs define less is more for a sold-out First Avenue
Saturday night at First Avenue, the Psychedelic Furs put on a show that was almost exactly what should be expected from all shows, which is to say that it was pretty much note-perfect. While there wasn't much talk from the stage, aside from a very polite thank you at the end--which may have been by design or may have been jettisoned to keep the show on time as Saturday shows at First Ave are usually done by about 9:45 to make way for Too Much Love--it wasn't really needed. Everyone there had heard these songs (the setlist was comprised of songs from every album except 1987's weak Midnight To Midnight), and there was nothing new to be said about any of them; the songs spoke for themselves. Aside from everyone looking a bit older, the addition of Information Society's Amanda Kramer on keys, and the absence of New Wave outfits, which have long since been put back in the closet in favor of simple suits and the like (plus bassist Tim Butler sported shades the entire set), the Furs seem to be the same band they always have been.
There is an odd quality to the Furs' songs that is only true of a few other bands: They're somehow timeless. They will--by the twin virtues of the time in which they were a new band and their ties to John Hughes--forever be associated with the 1980s, but unlike so many of their counterparts from that era they will most likely never be enjoyed in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way, which is a blessing. The catalog has held up incredibly well over the years, possibly owing to the fact that the glut of new bands that have taken bits and pieces from '80s-era bands in the last decade have somehow overlooked the Furs' almost entirely. Though it's impossible to say why that is, exactly. Songs like "Love My Way" seem like they should have been copied a million times over the years but they simply haven't been, which made hearing them live that much more enjoyable. Richard Butler's voice still sounds like it did 25 years ago--impressive considering what his gravelly singing voice sounds like--and it only sounded a bit odd during the two cover songs they did during the encore (Roxy Music's "Pyjamarama" sounded particularly strange, vocals-wise, given the disparity in Butler and Bryan Ferry's singing voices) but that's a minor complaint about an otherwise wholly impressive show and it really only served to highlight just how unique a voice Butler actually has.
Photo by Steve Cohen
While the show didn't offer even a hint of anything new (the brothers Butler and company have no plans on revisiting the studio any time soon), somehow, this didn't seem like a nostalgia tour even though that's basically what it was. It's hard to recapture the glory of times past, but the Psychedelic Furs don't necessarily seem interested in that. They tour on an old catalog of songs and played those songs incredibly well. The set ran like a well-oiled machine from beginning to end and while it wasn't the flashiest show, it was still a great one. There's something to be said for for a live show that is the very definition of no-frills, and the Furs said it loud and clear.
For more photos, see our complete slideshow by Steve Cohen.
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