By Siavash Minoukadeh, Entertainment Sub-editor
Ezra Furman has made a name for himself with his vibrant punk sound. However, Furman was more restrained when playing the O2 Academy on the UK leg of his tour, but the power of his queer do-wop punk music became all the greater because of it.
Opening the night was Norwegian pop-punk four piece Pom Poko. Unpretentious and earnest, their cheery, pop-influenced sound and ferocious energy did a lot to get the crowd in the mood in a compact half-hour set.
Furman also made his entrance in a similar way: energetic and untheatrical. Dazzingly dressed head to toe in aa striped dress, fitted jacket and yellow pumps, Furman jumped straight into 'Suck the Blood from My Wound', the opening track from last year’s Transangelic Exodus and carrying straight through into 'Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone' from his latest album, Twelve Nudes.
Furman’s gritty, raspy vocal carried clearly and had the crowd enraptured as he rattled through songs off his new album in quickfire fashion. There was little in the way of theatrics: Furman was, for the most part, just stood centre stage singing into the mic. Nevertheless, there was a sense of passion and energy, albeit more serious and emotional than his studio albums.
After that intense start, Furman slowed things down for five or six songs. 'Body Was Made', normally a jazzy, upbeat song was played as a soft ballad. Stripping the instruments back let Furman’s lyrics shine through: a large theme in his music is vulnerability and there was no better way to get that across than just being on stage singing, with no grand sets or booming drums to hide behind. He also added an incredible, distorted, feedback-ridden mournful guitar solo that was one of the most compelling moments of the entire night.
It also became clear that Furman wanted to be heard. He has called his latest album his “political album”, which is quite a statement given how opinionated his music has been. One of the biggest cheers of the night came when he reminded the audience to register to vote before November 26th. Songs such as “In America” and “Thermometer”, both from Twelve Nudes were sung with a sense of seething anger and passion - a stirring sight to see. Furman was here to deliver a message and he did it with aplomb.
However, he still allowed the crowd moments of reflection. He encouraged everyone to “admit that there is a problem, admit that we feel pain” and to make themselves heard and “draw your power into the room with us”.
It wasn’t all serious messages though, and Furman made sure to leave some of his poppiest, most upbeat songs until the end such as “Tip of a Match” and a jazzy rendition of “Love You So Bad”. Coming back onstage for an encore, he also covered The Equals’ “Police on My Back” before sending the crowd off with a heartfelt farewell.
Ezra Furman was trying to do a lot in this gig: entertain with his cheery, rocky songs while also showing his vulnerability and making some political commentary. It was a delicate balance he had to strike but he did it with considerable skill and it paid off in the form of an incredibly powerful hour of live music.
Featured Image: Siavash Minoukadeh