The Psychedelic FursO2 Academy 16/6/18
A group whose stock has risen deservedly in recent years, THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS have picked up scores of new followers due to their continuing appeal to filmmakers. Best known for inspiring John Hughes’ cult 80s teen film Pretty In Pink, the Furs’ recent inclusion on the OSTs to the highly acclaimed likes of Call Me By Your Name and Stranger Things have done wonders for their profile.
Beginning life as an angular post-punk outfit in the late 1970s, the band’s combination of melody and invention with a soupçon of sneering punk attitude saw them stake out firm territory among their contemporaries Joy Division and The Cure (their next gig after tonight is at Meltdown at the invitation of Robert Smith).
Drawing inspiration (like every band of that era) from Roxy Music and David Bowie, the Furs have (perhaps wisely) avoided releasing any new music since their 2001 reformation. With their most ‘recent’ album World Outside released in 1991, the lion’s share of the setlist comes from the five albums issued between 1980-87, ensuring their live set is an extended best-of run.
Opening with one of their greatest tracks – Dumb Waiters from 1981 LP Talk Talk Talk – demonstrates the group’s early approach in formidable style, combining skronking avant jazz saxophone, art rock and straight-up pop. From the same album, a barnstorming take of Into You Like A Train lands immediately afterwards, Richard Butler’s voice and master of ceremonies stage presence belying his 62 years. On saxophone, Chicago jazz virtuoso Mars Williams is frankly incredible, his outstanding Charlie Parker-esque solo on Sister Europe ripping through the track’s Cold War gloom and concluding to huge applause.
Able to move easily between the Technicolor romance of pop and the stark monochrome of post-punk, Heartbreak Beat (covered live by The Killers) showcases the former, and the sardonic lyric sheet of Mr Jones the latter. The intro to a beautiful rendition of Love My Way receives a sizeable cheer, its inclusion during an already semi-legendary scene of Armie Hammer dancing during Call Me By Your Name has become a music video in its own right.
The Ghost In You, meanwhile, featured in the second series of modern classic Stranger Things (trainspotter alert: it appears in Chapter Three, The Pollywog, where Jonathan and Nancy sit on the bonnet of his car and eat lunch) like all of the material played tonight sounds ageless. Elsewhere the lyrics to Reagan-era polemic President Gas from the Todd Rundgren-produced Forever Now (1982) sounds depressingly relevant in the current era.
Pretty In Pink understandably airs last, the era-defining cut providing a Proustian Rush for those in thrall to Molly Ringwald and the rest of the 1980s Brat Pack. A glorious demonstration of how strong the band’s canon is, even if they don’t trouble themselves with releasing any new material, the Furs’ back catalogue should easily justify the band’s existence well into the next decade.