Brighton Festival 2018
He was supported by two bands: The first was a four-piece called Honey Harper whose 1970’s west coast vibe, Dylan-eque vocals, smooth harmonies and pedal steel, gave them a melancholy neo-county feel. Sadly many people didn’t turn up to see them, as they were an accomplished band and well worth a listen, particularly the lead singer’s acapella rendition of Dustry Springfield’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.
The second support was Du Blonde, had Ezra Furman’s bass player Jorgen Jorgensen standing-in and performing admirably. The lead singer, 25-year-old Beth Jeans Houghton, attempted a bit of rapport with audience, but mostly the band were heads down playing their garage rock-style numbers.
Following a short eulogy announcement by a man in a white suit who later turned out to be Furmans’ sax player, Furman came on in jeans and patterned top, slightly disappointing some of the audience who had hoped he’d be wearing his glam drag as seen in the promotion for the gig. The rest of the band were wearing all white.
The line-up of drums, bass, keyboards, sax and Furman on vocals and guitar, played his own unique brand of psychedelic indie rock and singing about his faith and mental health issues both from his last album Perpetual Motion People, and his latest album Transangelic Exodus in a rasping broken voice with shades of Springsteen and Reed. Also on stage were glockenspiel and a floor tom, which were played occasionally by the saxophonist. There was also a screen with visual images behind the band which changed for each song.
Clearly, Furman is an outstanding and mesmerising performer – but unfortunately this particular gig was plagued with difficulties right from the start. The sax player dropped his instrument, which seemed to throw Furman, who didn’t really get going until the mended sax eventually made a reappearance several songs later. There was some problematic feedback buzz, which took a long time to sort out, and even once that was resolved, the band seemed restless. The saxophonist frequently wandered around on stage taking the focus away from Furman. The band did eventually settle down with an impressive cover of Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love followed by Furmans’ own track about teenage gay sex, with an impressive light show behind them. Despite all the hiccups, Ezra Furman (like Amanda Palmer) has a small and vocal hardcore fanbase who will forgive almost any transgression, with encouraging shouts of “We love you.”
There were some good moments such as Jorgensens’ electric cello playing on The Great Unknown and the number Maraschino-Red Dress $8.99 at Goodwill ‘ had some retro footage of someone making such a dress which was very striking, while rounding up with the pounding anthem Suck the Blood from My Wound. But as a whole, the show had a feeling of uneasiness, as so many things had gone wrong for the band on this unfortunate occasion.