Ezra Furman may have been around for a while, yet the Chicago songwriter has been one of my musical discoveries of the year. His third solo LP Perpetual Motion People (after three albums with Ezra Furman & The Harpoons), with its hit singles Restless Year and Lousy Connection, has become an unavoidable part of the indie radios everywhere, while his previous works flew a bit more under the radar. Maybe it’s because he’s lately been embracing pop music more fully, though not straying from his own brand of country-punk’n’roll completely and still valuing classic singer-songwriter skills; perhaps also because his appearance has become significantly more memorable: These days, the genderfluid musician usually performs in a dress, makeup and a pearl necklace.
I had not only fallen for his music, but also had gotten a hint of his great live shows via YouTube snippets. As a result I was looking forward to this gig like I haven’t often been doing lately. Also the support band was a treat: The Blood Arm, probably still best known for their ridiculously overplayed mid-00s hit Suspicious Character. Anyway, the LA-gone-Berlin group are relentlessly still around, and their glamorous indie-showtunes presented by exuberant frontman Nathaniel Fregoso somehow fit it remarkably with Ezra’s own extravanganza. Interestingly, the audience seemed to almost make a point of not particularly caring when they started playing their one big hit – it’s still too soon for 2000’s nostalgia, it seems. Or I just stood too far in the back to notice the diehard fans going down.
After the support had finished, I managed to sneak up close to the front. The Lido was well full, but the crowd was a paradigm of laid-back-ness. No one pushed around or moshed – not that I mind that in general, but it was super relaxing to just direct your full attention at the stage and not at the people around you. Also, it’s probably quite obvious that Ezra Furman won’t pull a reckless dudebro audience. The petite singer, who had been seen standing in the crowd enjoying the set of his friends in The Blood Arm, looked like some punked-up forest fairy with green/blue hair and bright red lipstick, stomping, jumping and crouching across stage or into the audience, screaming out his lyrics like mad during punk-ier uptempo songs like 2013’s I wanna destroy myself or Tell them all to go to hell, or going all soft and gentle for the ballads such as Hour of deepest need. Without a doubt he was one of the most charismatic performers I’ve seen, who was able to draw the crowd in so completely that not one moment of boredom ensued. Of course, this was also thanks to his amazing backing band The Boyfriends, above all the incredible saxophonist who actually made you wonder why a saxophone is not a prerequisite of any rock band, that’s how awesome he was. But also the piano and guitar did a great service to shape Ezra Furman’s signature style, which is somewhere between anti-folk, garage punk, country and piano-pop. It was obvious that everyone was having a great time, both performers and audience, and Ezra seemed truly touched at the turnout. I was at the brink of bothering him with my feelings about this gig – one of my highlights of the year, clearly – when he was at the merch afterwards, but after his impressively long set had ended and I had collected my coat, it was already 12 o’clock on a weeknight and I had to avoid the shuttle service and go home the long way round, so I ended up not making a fool of myself this time.