Psychedelic Furs, the Lemonheads, Night Drive House of Blues November 2nd, 2014
Each month, countless bands tour the United States on the nostalgia ticket. What these shows generally present is a fond recollection of a time when both the band and the audience were fresher and tighter; the concert experience triggering a collective "Remember when?" for all involved. The nostalgia is often the best part of these shows, as the bands generally don't sound nearly as together as they did in the past.
Refreshingly, and somewhat surprisingly, Sunday night's Psychedelic Furs show was not this type of concert whatsoever. Despite striking an obvious reminiscent chord with its audience, the band's sound and performance were very much in the present.
The Furs' tight performance is likely linked to the fact that since regrouping in 2001, the band has been consistently riding the tour cycle. This constant touring could also speak to the concert's shockingly low attendance level.
It seems as though Houstonians have had a solid amount of opportunities to catch the Furs over the past decade, most of which have been at House of Blues (most recently as last July). As a Sunday night show on Halloween weekend, attendance was lackluster at best. Fans might feel as though they will have another chance to catch the Furs soon, in opposition to many of their contemporaries, so there is no real sense of urgency to pack a venue. With that being said, those who were there were completely committed to the experience and were treated to an exemplary show.
Singer Richard Butler's voice has somehow frozen in time. With a grainy tone that could easily lead to a complete inability to perform, the singer was astonishingly on point. The audience approved of opener "Into You Like a Train" and from that point on, the show only continued to impress.
Adorned in militaristic black suits, the band was as fashionable as they were in the '80s. While bassist Tim Butler was particularly stylish, saxophonist Mars Williams was the real star of the show. His performance on "Imitation of Christ" not only showcased his talents, but reminded fans why the Furs became such a success in the first place. Unlike other post-punk New Wave groups, they employed a unique combination of elements (the saxophone is a great example) that positioned them in a different light.
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Predictably, the band played most of the songs that made them popular, but nothing sounded dusty or dated. During "Love My Way," the audience could have closed their eyes and had no idea what year it was; everything sounded like it had just been created. It is no doubt difficult for a band that has played the same songs a million times to continue to play them with a genuine level of love and excitement; to continue to curate a new experience for the audience that doesn't rest solely on the past. This is the secret to the Furs' lasting success, and clearly a reason why they are still afforded the ability to annually tour.
After an inspired rendition of classic fan favorite "Heartbreak Beat," the band briefly exited the stage before returning for a two-song encore that included their seminal hit "Pretty In Pink." A track the audience had no doubt heard hundreds of times, there was no sense of wear to be seen, simply a stunning performance.
So, How Were the Openers? Local duo Night Drive opened the evening with a decent set for anyone who likes formidable synth-pop laced with a tiny goth undertone. Fans of bands like She Wants Revenge would approve.
The real opening treat was the Lemonheads. It made a seemingly bizarre choice to open for Psychedelic Furs considering that these groups don't really share a solid fanbase or any real musical commonality, but the crowd loved watching the '90s relics perform. Seeing them was like experiencing a little time capsule opening, revealing a pivotal and often overlooked moment in music history.
The Lemonheads did not play any of their most popular songs, and no one seemed to particularly care. Overall the band sounded great, and maybe that is why they were a fit to open for the Furs. Both sounded as fresh in 2014 as in their heyday.
Personal Bias: Pretty In Pink was always my favorite John Hughes movie, and in junior high I had a bumper sticker on my Trapper Keeper that said, "Come on Feel The Lemonheads." Not surprisingly, I really enjoyed this show.
The Crowd: With an average age ranging from about 35 to 55, the all-ages aspect of the show was employed by parents who brought their kids to have a great live-music experience. Those were some lucky kids.
Overseen In the Crowd: Overall, the Furs create music that is great for 1980s-style slow-dancing (think of the classic back-and-forth sway move), so it was pretty entertaining to see two women in the audience essentially Jazzercising to every song. While it certainly looked exhausting (not to mention a bit out of place), these women were both in excellent shape, so what the hell do I know?
Random Notebook Dump: As Psychedelic Furs took the stage, House of Blues started pumping an insane amount of air conditioning. One can only hope this was per the band's request, considering the venue quickly turned from concert hall to igloo within minutes. God bless the hoodie.
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