July 17, 2013
House of Blues - Dallas
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Love Tsunami
Photos by Paul Wilkins
The Psychedelic Furs
PFurs music is better than a fistful of Prozac
The Psychedelic Furs never fail me, but July 17th at House of Blues Dallas may have been the best show yet. I try not to miss them when they're on tour. A few hours of PFurs music is better than a fistful of Prozac. Go ahead. Throw Midnight to Midnight or Forever Now on the player and see if you can stay cranky.
The last time I saw them was 9 months ago at Granada Theater on Greenville Avenue and it was a beautiful show. Granada is one of my favorite venues, but sometimes a change of scenery changes everything. House of Blues Dallas is a fantastic theater in the historic White Swan building where West End meets Victory Park. Celebrating its 20 year anniversary as a Dallas venue, it is becoming its own piece of downtown history. It has a lot going for it with nightly events, a reasonably priced restaurant featuring local entertainment, and convenient, affordable parking on streets buzzing with life. Crowd watching alone is worth the price of admission, but watch out for panhandlers in the parking lot. There are often polite, well dressed men who run out of gas about a mile away. (Word to the wise - bring more than one method of payment when parking in downtown areas and keep the cash in your wallet until you're inside.) And the box office issues REAL TICKETS. What?!? That's right, Old School Folks. A printed ticket. I almost cried happy tears right there. The lady at Will Call was highly amused, but I suspect if she saw my collection of non-descript wristbands with shows and dates written in Sharpie on them versus the pile of stubs from my younger days, she might have cried a little, too.
The Technicolor opened the show and they were a lot of fun. Young guys playing real rock and roll, completely into their deal. Check them out. I'm a new fan and I hope to see them get some success in the future. They impressed me when I checked out their merch table by selling their album on vinyl. There's a resurgence of this medium and I love it.
The crowd got stirred up between sets for some interesting interaction between concert goers. A lot of people came alone and made new friends, bonding over their mutual love of the band they came to see. I'm not exactly sure why this is, but at every PFurs show, my friends and I are always next to the drunkest girl in the house. This time, there was also a Very Nice Man who was having none of this chick's scrappy attitude. Chivalry was alive and well on the floor at HOB.
It's important to note that The Psychedelic Furs have a wide fan base - a mostly GenX crowd getting a little gray around the edges, but there were kids with their parents, 20-somethings getting into the post-punk classic act, and a few Boomers who weren't ready to order their Hoveround just yet. My friend who was saved by this concert hall hero said she was surprised to see so many men in the audience. I think she thought the androgynous appearance affected by the band might threaten a regular Joe's masculinity. It's not such a far-fetched assumption since Texas is the poster child state for hate of all kinds, but here's the honest to God truth - Love and acceptance prevail when the music is good. People can't hate anything when they're happy. Even in their saddest songs, The Psychedelic Furs emanate an infectious joy that make a listener feel infinite. The audience cheered when the house lights went down and Richard Butler took the stage with his own brand of dandy energy. The ironic anthem of Highwire Days was a perfect opening number for this diehard audience full of beautiful freaks.
Richard takes up all the space on stage that isn't occupied. I love a man who isn't afraid of his emotions. Frontman Richard Butler gives an open, expressive performance that makes his whole audience feel like they just got a big hug from an old friend they haven't seen in forever. He crouches down to get personal with people near the stage, leans against the proscenium arch to sing directly to those on the outskirts, and waves enthusiastically to the balcony. Richard prances, twirls, preens, and wiggles his hips with absolute abandon. He gives it all to every song on the set list. There are few performers who express such abundant gratitude for the people who showed up for them. You can almost see the energy arc through the open space overhead between the band and the crowd.
That vivacious presence doesn't stop with Richard, either. The whole band feeds off of an interpersonal exchange between themselves on stage and with the audience. This lucky girl was positioned slightly to the right of center stage. I had an exceptional view of bass player Tim Butler whose subtler presence anchored the stage. He wore a visually arresting red jacket with brass buttons patterned after a Red Coat uniform circa 1770 that stood out against the dark clothing the others wore. Even if that jacket hadn't drawn the eye, he would still get your attention. He plays a strong signature bass line and gets into mouthing lyrics along with the fans. He looks people right in the eye when he does it. It's a fearless, intimate gesture that a lot of performers avoid.
Mars Williams joined The Psychedelic Furs on tour in 1983 as a stand in for Gary Windo and stayed until 1989, then rejoining in 2005. He's so amazing that he makes me wonder why modern acts don't use sax or clarinet in their compositions, but then I remember how Bill Clinton killed the cool of the saxophone. What he couldn't kill with his mediocre blow was Mars. Mars IS the saxophone. He deserves his own biographical independent film to immortalize his greatness so that some future God of the Reed will revive the sound on a solid platform of influence. Mars is funny, too. He has a cute Mutt and Jeff thing going with guitarist, Rich Good. Rich is in his late 30s, younger than all the other members and a welcome addition. I don't miss Roger Morris's heavy, brooding persona at all. Rich adds a light to their presence and sound that expands beyond his clean, skilled fingering. His interaction is largely with the band because he is so into the music, but when he looks up and sees where he is, he smiles like he's living the dream. One more great thing about this relative newcomer is how his youth infuses the others with a freshness that so many seasoned performers lose.
Standing unobtrusively in the background on keys is Amanda Kramer. She is so integral and seamless in the PFurs sound that you might overlook her fluid style if you aren't listening for it, but she is there, stitching together a harmonic undertone and you'd miss her greatly if she wasn't. Also in the back keeping time and pulling everyone together is Paul Garisto on drums. Hardly anyone thinks about their heart unless it isn't working the way it should and so it often is with drummers. Paul does his job without a lot of flash and show, but when you notice him, you realize that his temperance does more than keep a beat. It is the perfect compliment to the often complicated philosophy imparted in the Butler brothers' lyrics.
Every song brought a new breath to the room. Heartbreak Beat had everyone singing along and a couple about 20 feet from me slow danced junior high style to The Ghost In You. Wrong Train was a secret the band shared with the loyalist fan base. When they played All Of This And Nothing, I lost myself in a personal moment, dancing it out the way I would have when I was 19. Tim Butler saw me and seemed pleased because people don't really dance at shows the way they used to.
They played a generous set for almost two hours and gave a brilliant two song encore. There were tears in the eyes of the lovely transgendered lady at my 3:00 and the gorgeous blonde slightly to my left when the refrains of Pretty In Pink rang through the atmosphere. I totally understood as I rode my own wave of nostalgia. Music is a very personal thing and every girl sees a little of herself in Caroline.
When it was over, I was incredibly satisfied. It was a practically perfect show in every way. My itty bitty tiniest of complaints was that they didn't play President Gas, but I think I'll live.
The Ghost in You
Little Miss World
Here Come Cowboys
No Easy Street
All of This and Nothing
Love My Way
Pretty in Pink
Sleep Comes Down