Photography: Glyn Akroyd / @GlynAkroyd

Ezra Furman

Arts Club 4/2/18

An illuminated clock face emblazoned with the word ‘Transangelic’ dimly lights the front of the room, while I side-step my way through the huddled crowd, in pursuit of a space with sufficient oxygen to get me through the next 90 minutes of EZRA FURMAN’s latest visit to the Arts Club. It’s the most packed I’ve ever seen the venue, yet there seems to be little anticipatory energy in the room, and one too many comfy, space-engulfing hiking jackets. Contrastingly adorned in pearls and a knee-length frock, Furman opens with From A Beach House from his new album Transangelic Exodus, which serves as a gentler introduction to his set from what we’ve come to expect from the Chicagoan rocker.

It takes a while for things to get going and with a less than enthusiastic version of Haunted Head, he perhaps displays early indulgence and fulfilment in tracks from his new album. Furman’s seventh studio album could be described as being more considered and creatively outreaching; exhibiting an impressive story-telling dynamic to his songwriting, it details the paranoid, visceral and supernatural tale of an angelic lover and their evasion from an oppressive government.

"Furman is, as ever, engagingly powerful; his voice commanding, you feel every word, the pain, the joy, the humour" Jonny Winship

In general, his newer tracks aren’t received with any enthusiasm; No Place, which features bludgeoning toms and a deep and distorted bassline, ignites a bracing, Iggy Pop-like rawness in some, but in others it seems to unsettle or irritate. This irritation seems to resurface at times through the set, as audible shushing and passive-aggressive remarks are exchanged between punters packed at the back of the room.

EZRA FURMAN Image 2

It may be due to the intended lack of support for tonight’s show, but the crowd show very little of the attitude, rawness and empowering emancipation that emanates from Furman’s music. Fortunately, favourites such as My Zero and Tip Of A Match draw the crowd in for the carefree cavorting of which you’d expect. Furman is, as ever, engagingly powerful; his voice commanding, you feel every word, the pain, the joy, the humour. In between songs he evokes a fragile, coy, child-like playfulness that is incredibly endearing.

Furman’s new album seems to mark an end of a chapter musically for the artist, a necessary evolution for artists that like to stay fulfilled and relevant. Parts of the crowd around me may not have been ready for their ears to be turned to new sounds, but there is certainly more to come from Furman, and I’m sure this will be a defining new chapter in his musical ascent.

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