“I defy any critic to sum up my musical output with a genre label. It can’t be done”.
Ezra Furman challenged music journalists everywhere in a Guardian article last year. Well SOURCE aren’t one for labels Mr Furman – we’re freewheelin’ Brightonians – we do love a challenge though.
Clad in pearls with matching red lipstick and guitar strap, Furman entices his band The Boyfriends onstage with a solo rendition of Link Wray’s ‘Rumble’ (as heard in Pulp Fiction).
Assembled, they raucously rip through ‘Restless Year’ from ‘Perpetual Motion People’. The Boyfriends deliver velvet doo-wop harmonies as a foil for Furman’s salty rasp. It’s impressive to see a band so tight create an illusion of hanging-by-a-thread combustibility.
“Sometimes I just get carried away,” says Furman, panting with his Joker smile.
The frenetic ‘Anything can Happen’ is equally as wild with a surge of fans at the front being swept along in unison.
“I have a lot of sympathy for people in a large crowd who are not feeling well,” says an exasperated Furman. He then calms the tone with a serene acoustic version of ‘Cherry Lane’. Alone under purple spotlights it feels both fragile and powerful. As intense as one of the great Daniel Johnston live shows.
Classic references continue with a cover of Nirvana’s ‘In Bloom’. The sax solos and handclaps are surreal and further highlight its lyrical darkness. That’s the crux of Furman’s style though – songs of despair with a rock ‘n’ roll makeover. A painted smile to cover the painful cracks.
“You look lovely Ezra!” shouts someone from the crowd.
“Thank you,” Furman responds somewhat awkwardly.
A personal struggle within the skin is something Ezra Furman has addressed in music throughout his career. This has had almost fatal consequences for the 29-year-old troubadour. Luckily music seems to be his salvation and stands triumphantly tall over the dark depths of its creation.
“One September in Boston, I lost the will to live,” he sings in ‘Ordinary Life’. It feels like a heartfelt confession to a friend and the mesmerised crowd embrace him in their response.
His public move towards a gender fluid lifestyle makes every lyric feel achingly poignant tonight. “I lived these secret lives,” he sings over Tim Sandusky’s mournful saxophone.
“Your body is yours at the end of the day and don’t let the hateful try and take it away,” implores Furman in the celebratory ‘Body Was Made’. An easy guy to root for, everyone is on his side tonight.
Furman spoke to Paper about his Jewish faith and addresses religious iconography in a re-worked version of ‘Maybe God Is A Train’ and ‘Slacker / Adria’. “I see white crosses burning,” he sings in the latter’s epic stadium-sized finale. The encore of ‘Tell Em All To Go To Hell’ acts as the perfect hymn for the haters and Furman delivers his sermon with conviction and fire.
“I am proud to exist in an ambiguous, undecided state,” he wrote about his gender fluidity in The Guardian. Labelling the musician or the music is impossible and wrong. Besides, indecision never looked so good.