Furman got lost in the music.
Ezra Furman emotes. Anyone who has listened to the artist’s most recent album, the excellent Transangelic Exodus, knows that he is unafraid to reach near hysterical levels in his songwriting. Channeling the fervent melody of Bruce Springsteen mixed with the cracked narrative of Daniel Johnston, Furman – who is both queer and Jewish – turns the tables on the place of masculinity in songwriting with his tales of growing up and surviving as something other than “normal” in the United States.
I first became aware of Furman and his music a few years ago when he played Portland’s Pickathon festival. Though I missed his set, my friends who did see it claimed it was one of the best of the weekend. It is heartening to see that Furman, who has been putting out albums since 2007, is now pulling in crowds. In Portland, Furman sold out Mississippi Studios, thrilling the audience to a 20+-song, 90-minute set of material that spanned his career.
Wearing a red dress – complemented with crimson lipstick and a string of white pearls – Furman and his four-piece band tore through a good portion of Transangelic Exodus treating the crowd to muscular renditions of the new tracks. Furman got lost in the music, flailing about the stage or digging into his teal guitar. Though Transangelic debuted in February, most of the audience sang along, articulating every word to Furman’s often dense lyrics.
In between songs, Furman made short declarations about gender and protest, even labelling a group of songs about driving, but he seemed almost sheepish to pause from playing. Furman concentrated on the more upbeat songs from Transangelic such as “Maraschino-Red Dress $8.99 at Goodwill” and “Peel My Orange Every Morning.” Meanwhile, the audience shouted along in unison to “The Great Unknown” and bounced to “Love You So Bad,” a track Furman unashamedly referred to as his “pop song.”
Not everything was buoyant, however. “Come Here, Get Away from Me” is a harrowing journey of balancing one’s sanity and Furman pushed himself to limits like a young Gordon Gano. Meanwhile, a cover of Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love” allowed the musician to honor his idols. Covering Bush is a pretty tall order, but Furman and his band did “Hounds of Love” justice without veering into histrionics.
Furman will be returning to Pickathon this summer and I will be sure to catch both of his sets that weekend. In the meantime, if he is coming to your city sometime soon, get a ticket, get there early to claim a good spot in the front of the crowd and be ready to witness one of the most exciting young talents in music put on a hell of a show.