“Who thought a Psychedelic Furs show would be so violent?”
(Photo: Nikolas Goll)
At first, I thought the teetering woman knew the ladies standing against the lip of the stage. British troubadour Robyn Hitchcock was in mid-song, singing his heart out about “Madonna of the Wasps” when she staggered up, leaning in too close and speaking too loudly. The woman against the stage gave her a dirty look and turned back to the singer.
Hitchcock, dressed in a colorful, floral shirt, had just begun his excellent set, opening for the Psychedelic Furs, one that touched on many points in his impressive catalog from songs off Queen Elvis to material from his new, self-titled release such as “I Pray When I’m Drunk.” Much like Billy Bragg does during his sets, Hitchcock was chatty between songs, commenting on everything from Cyndi Lauper to imagining an alternative past for Portland’s Revolution Hall, which used to be a high school auditorium.
By the time the drunk woman began harassing the fan next to me and asked Hitchcock to “spank” her when he took the stage, I realized there was a problem. Armed only with an acoustic guitar, Hitchcock’s music called for the sort of reverent quiet that 99% of the auditorium was granting him. When the woman finally made it to the edge of the stage, she began shouting, “Darling! I’m British and must speak with you.” Some of us tried to signal security, but they did not come. Hitchcock soldiered on and ignored her, finishing off his 45-minute set as if the distraction wasn’t taking place right below his nose.
As a crush of people moved towards the stage in between sets, that drunk woman wasn’t ready to just pass out or move back. Security finally descended on her, trying to use reason to get her out of the pit. After about 10 minutes of negotiation, she left peaceably and the theater erupted into applause.
The woman’s poor behavior was quickly forgotten when the Psychedelic Furs took the stage. Led by vocalist Richard Butler and his brother Tim on bass, the band turned in an energetic, 18-song set that covered the bulk of its career. Kicking off with the muscular “Dumb Waiters,” the show bounced from hits (“Love My Way”) to moodier cuts such as “Alice’s House.” The entire band (sans Paul Garisto on drums) played as if the stage couldn’t contain them, moving to the edge as if threatening to join the audience at any time. Saxophonist Mars Williams held his instrument’s bell within inches of the fans while bassist Butler, clad in sunglasses, actually leaned into the crowd and mouthed the words of the songs. It was confrontational and invigorating as a concertgoer.
All the while, people clamored to get to the front of the pit, their efforts repelled by those who lined up early. A woman wrapped her arm around my waist in an attempt to get close, but the guy behind me shoved her back where she came from. “Who thought a Psychedelic Furs show would be so violent?” quipped another fan next to me.
The band finished the first set with hit “Pretty in Pink.” After a short break, they returned under a recording of Donald Trump muttering, “Billions and billions.” Butler gave a Hitler salute and the band began the encore with “President Gas,” a song that is still germane 35 years after they wrote it. The Furs closed with upbeat songs “Heartbreak Beat” and “India” before retiring for the evening. It’s too bad the drunk British woman missed that set. Its energy more appropriately matched her raucous spirit.