Ezra Furman and the Boyfriend’s Wednesday night show at the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham cemented their place as one of the greatest live bands I have ever had the fortune to see, blasting out a none-stop, hour and forty minute set of earnest yet raucous early 60s punk-rock music that at once amazed and enthralled.
Support for Ezra Furman came in the form of Nottingham’s own Babe Punch, a five piece punk/post-punk band who definitely seem to know where the fuzz pedals are kept. The sound was nothing short of massive as the band blasted out a set of original material and one cover of ‘Wicked Game’ which was a really interesting addition to their electrifying, fast-paced set list. Their sound is something akin to Joy Division, but with a definite underlying 90s grunge bent. Sadly, the vocals seemed to be way too low in the mix which really got in the way of the lead singer’s otherwise very strong stage presence. This also meant that lyrics, the thing which I would normally be harping on about, were almost impossible to catch. Although, overall the band sounded tight and powerful, displaying some of the most bombastic Drum and Bass playing that I have seen for a long time, and I am very keen to catch them again.
At 9:15 the Boyfriends emerged and began playing, over which a voice which was unmistakeably Ezra Furman, playfully narrated the lead singer’s introduction as having been ‘once described as the Elvis Presley of Rock and Roll’, and describing the band quite simply as ‘a good band’. Once the singer emerged the crowd erupted, and the set opened with the track that perhaps most overtly exemplifies Ezra Furman’s own brand of self-destructive, raucous nihilism that has so endeared the singer to me in the first place, ‘I Wanna Destroy Myself’. Furman simply owns the stage, sporting a short, red dress dotted with flowers, the singer is immediately thrown around the stage by some seemingly internal drive to achieve the message of the opening song, and the result is eye-wateringly captivating from start to finish.
The set on the whole is one of three parts. The first part sees the band hammer out the more lively tracks from Furman’s albums ‘Day Of The Dog’ and ‘Perpetual Motion People’, with highlights being the impossibly catchy ‘Restless Year’ and bass heavy ‘Tip Of A Match’. Furman occasionally pauses to engage with the crowd but mostly this first part is about an explosive opening to the evening, and they certainly deliver.
As the first half of the set list begins to draw to a close, the Boyfriends depart the stage, leaving Furman to perform a brief solo interlude which hauntingly brings down the tone to one raw emotion as Furman serenades with songs of more touching subject matter. This is also a period where Furman engages with the crowd more, humorously asking the crowd not to film a new song as it ‘won’t be the best version of it’, and sincerely talking about issues such as clinical depression. The manner in which Furman writes lyrics is so honest that it is impossible not to feel a connection with the subject matter, it is a master class in why lyrics matter so much in music. There were shouts and cheers throughout, the one which stuck with me during this acoustic interlude being ‘you saved my life Ezra’, and there were even tears around me, something which I have never actually witnessed at a concert before yet it perfectly embodied the power that Furman has at touching people through music.
When the Boyfriends returned the raucous rock resumed as Furman was back throwing every ounce of energy into electrifying the audience right up to the end of the concert. The anthemic ‘Lousy Connection’ and my personal favourite ‘Ordinary Life’ saw the crowd singing along with enthusiasm. There was no encore as the band had played solidly up to the curfew, with Furman temporarily breaking the mic during their last track before managing to fix it again saying, ‘there’s a sign out back, they kill you if you break the mic!’
In general, Ezra Furman and the Boyfriends should be a compulsory watch for anyone who loves music, it is that simple. Furman has a blatant and emphatic love for the band’s art, and music as a whole, which is something so refreshing to see in contemporary society that you can’t help but feel enthused by the performance. It is not hard to see that I am perhaps biased in this review being an already ardent fan, but I would ask anyone to see Ezra Furman and the Boyfriend’s and not come out feeling, as I did, profoundly touched by their music’s raw emotion and electrified by their out-of-this-world stage presence.