Ezra Furman - The Glee Club, Birmingham
When a technician setting up a band’s saxophone receives whooping and hollering of the kind many bands receive, we’re in for a good night. Anticipation is everything, and as tonight’s host Ezra Furman has waited for his career to breakthrough, so his amped-up young-leaning audience must wait for the night’s show in support of last year’s album Perpetual Motion People.
Wearing a blue-black t-shirt, grey pleated skirt with black stockings, and soon to be discarded floral cap, Illinois’s Furman is accompanied by his band The Boy-Friends, including Tim Sandusky reconciled with his saxophone. Furman’s red lipstick accentuates his beaming, sometimes vulnerable, smile as he pauses before addressing the audience with a statutory “How’s everyone doing?” After rapturous applause we’re underway.
The night’s music covers Furman’s emotional wellbeing and matters of faith atop garage rock and classic rock ‘n’ roll. The first slow song ‘Can I Sleep in Your Brain’ is punctuated by an evangelical audience back and forth “Your mood is mine! Your mood is mine!” While remaining metaphorical, the aforementioned description ‘rapturous’ is carefully used; Furman’s voice and manner run to an infectious preacher like cadence.
Audience arms stretch to reach Furman as he prances and occasionally dismounts the stage. But while the flock are in his thrall they also want to have fun; we hear arguably tonally misjudged banter for ‘Caroline Jones’ about a friend Furman declines to name. However during the also plaintive ‘And Maybe God is a Train’ the audience react with a genuine “Don’t be sad.” Furman responds with his beaming, now less vulnerable, smile.
The venue removing its usual seating transforms its atmosphere from cosy to volatile but remains welcoming. Technical problems with sound levels worry, but ultimately barely register with the almost 600-capacity crowd; Furman’s address “It means a lot to tell you the truth. And as I say, you all bring a lot to the situation.” differs from being told of their quiet nature as often happens in this city.
The show’s end leans towards Furman’s faster songs but retains his underlying message: “This is a song against shame” introduces the anthem ‘Body Was Made’ to which the increasingly tangible – and boisterous! – mosh pit choir dutifully sing along. But, between this and a wonderfully distempered sax-based arrangement of Nirvana’s ‘In Bloom’, the less boisterous receive the dedication “I don’t care how the loud people feel, this song’s for the quiet people.” Promoting inclusivity and sharing his voice helps explain the affectionate bond between artist and fans.
After a final sermon (on reflection, it’s a wonder none ended with “Hallelujah!“) instructing and introducing ‘Tell Em All to Go to Hell’, the audience leave with emotional, and for the more lively, physical exhaustion. So how best to conclude this 400-word written review? Well by repeating the four-word review of many of the audience: “That was so good.”
Photo credit: Phil Sharp