A fully seated audience takes on post-punk with the psychedelic furs
“I hope we won’t be the only ones here who don’t use psychedelics”, said the person sitting next to me.
Right away, it became clear that we had entered a world of moms and dads reliving the glory years of the Psychedelic Furs alongside their own. On March 13, The Furs performed at the State Theater in Ithaca as part of their “Made of Rain” tour, celebrating their premiere New version in 29 years. The Furs’ energy, connection and rhythm managed to transport audiences back to the 1980s as they rejuvenated classic hits and performed songs from their new album.
The show opened with Royston Langdon, a solo artist who sported a cowboy hat, sunglasses and a rich acoustic guitar. “It’s all one big mound of music and love,” Langdon told the audience, reflecting the effect of his smooth voice and down-striking, fingerstyle guitar playing style. Langdon didn’t hurt with his provocative and honest lyrics: his song, “Nazi Girlfriend,” brought confused laughter from the open mouths of the audience.
Crowd moms enjoyed Langdon’s rich, rolling voice and on-stage charisma, but his choice to step away from the microphone midway through his set left his vocal effects wanting and audience members frowned. strained to hear the lyrics over the amplified guitar. Despite his flaws, however, I found Langdon to be the perfect opener for the Furs, as his unexpected personality created anticipation for the main act. He definitely made me laugh with his originals, and he pleased the crowd with his cover of David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes”.
After Langdon’s set, a heavy synth changed the tone of the show from Langdon’s acoustic guitar to the classic 80s sound of The Furs. One would expect the post-punk band to be rusty or low-energy in their old age, but even though their outfits and sound are straight out of the 80s, each of the members carried a timeless personality and energy on scene. A flurry of accidental flash photos of fans who didn’t know how to use their phones dated the audience, as lead singer and frontman Richard Butler danced center stage. Butler rocked his signature ’80s dance moves with the flair of a young man — only his loose McCartney-esque hair aged him.
Halfway through the set, the Furs treated the audience to some of their best-known songs. Even to someone unfamiliar with their discography, it was clear which songs were old hits when fans began to get up and dance despite signs explicitly banning the two. Their performance of the 1981 hit “Pretty in Pink” took the sound and energy straight from the ’80s, and Butler took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves to really get into 1982’s fan-favorite “Love My Way.”
The band’s impossibly tight rhythm characterized their performance, and the deafening rhythm of the drums and bass reverberated through the audience. The drummer completely captured the audience’s attention with his tight and dynamic playing; the other instrumentalists moved and bounced off each other’s energy. Butler’s classic, recognizable voice shines through the band’s decades-old recordings, and his voice has become a character in its own right thanks to the singer’s affect and dancing.
Although the riffs and progressions sounded more expected and less experimental in the band’s older songs, the band also seemed completely at home, having fun with their hits. Their connection shone through and captivated the audience as the vocalist, guitarist and bassist performed entwined.
Granted, I would have enjoyed the concert more if we had been on our feet and dancing the whole time, but the space of the State Theater does not allow for the high-energy audience experience that Psychedelic Furs demand. The Furs are not a group to sit back and enjoy passively, like the elderly couple to our left who were quietly sipping their open mugs of beer, watching like they would an opera. During the encore, we felt a slice of the energy I imagine the Furs would have received in the 80s, with a standing, cheering crowd. Guitarist Rich Good threw his guitar pick into the crowd after the band’s disbandment, another reminder of the energy and reception of the Furs’ glory days.
Unlike many other bands of the 70s and 80s with drama that has been going on for decades of love, hate, breakups and reunions, The Psychedelic Furs seemed to be genuinely present and having fun on stage. They can still fill a theater with enthusiastic fans and captivate new listeners, even 45 years after their creation. The Furs are definitely a band every fan needs to see live – their energy, rhythm and sound can’t quite be captured in their records.
Kiki Plowe is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]