Ezra Furman delivers a dynamic show following the release of his latest record the cinematic ode to ‘otherness’ Transangelic Exodus.
There is something of a trend in music journalism to speak of the death of guitar music as more and more of the most exciting moments in music begin to move away from the traditional structure of the rock song but Ezra Furman’s show tonight highlighted how there is still room for the idiosyncratic within the genre.
While many of the themes of his newest record may appear on the surface to be well-worn clichés (musicians have been claiming to be outsiders since Patti Smith’s opening salvo of Gloria 45 years ago) Ezra offers an evolved and distinctively queer take on this lyrical trope. His performance is as frenetic and impassioned as any yet it is immediately obvious how much fun he is having singing about Maraschino red dresses and smoking cigarettes with boys in leather jackets called Vincent. Even some minor technical hitches involving the saxophone don’t derail the show, a testament to the tightness and proficiency of the band.
His voice remains one of the most distinctive instruments at his possession that can alternative between a whisper and a feral howl at the change of a chord. This dynamic is reflected in the song writing and performance which oscillates between an almost paranoid darkness and joy before spilling out into exuberance towards the end of the set seemingly triggered by a fantastic cover of Kate Bush’s Hounds Of Love.
This unpredictability adds an element of tension to the night as joyful tracks such as My Zero sit alongside more somber tracks like God Lifts Up the Lowly and The Great Unknown. Moods, genres and dynamics are picked up and discarded over the course of the night as though to hold any position for any length of time would be to betray some sense of authenticity. The only constant to this performance is change. It is telling that Ezra ‘s merchandise includes an essay on Lou Reed who as a performer occupies a similar terrain of unpredictability and subversion.
Ezra Furman showed last night that there is still space for evolution and artistry within the rock song. The lyrical introspection, which has long been tied to the genre, is perfect for examining and questioning identity and experience and Ezra Furman’s outsider gaze, theatrics and rasping vocals look set to continue to subvert expectations to come.
Review by Jack Coulston