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Live Review: The Psychedelic Furs

Live Review: The Psychedelic Furs
Singles night at the Forum by Nic Howden
 
It's sick the price of medicine
Stand up, we'll put you on your feet again
Open up your eyes just to check that you’re asleep again
President gas is president gas again
 
There’s an obvious commercial sheen when a ‘legacy act’ announces a singles tour and the Forum Kentish Town was full, top and bottom, for The Psychedelic Furs who stretched the brief in their hometown to include third album opener President Gas. Written in the thick of Reaganism it’s still eerily prescient, something singer Richard Butler amplifies with his delivery.
 
Living Stateside since the late 1980s, Butler and younger brother/bassist Tim are the only parts of the Furs’ original six still in the frame. As a result, perhaps, the chaos of the band’s formative/fabled ‘Beautiful Chaos’ has been polished out but it’s a beautiful experience at the Forum nevertheless, by and large. 
 
Certainly the sound is good in every corner of the room I can reach during Lene Lovich’s testing support slot, clutching my problem solving two-pint cup. The L-Acoustics K2 loudspeaker system, fitted this summer, Academy Music Group money very well spent.
 
The Furs show starts with caustic 1981 single Dumb Waiters, released in a playable sleeve if memory serves. We Love You, the first 7-inch, follows then Mr Jones and Pretty in Pink, 2,300 people in raptures. 
 
Butler senior introduces the other players, sax maestro Mars Williams, in or around the band since 1983, who blows big time across the set, Amanda Kramer on keys, guitarist/recent addition Rich Good who looks a bit young Keith Richards, and drummer Paul Garisto. Otherwise he speaks very little, focusing his fabulous voice, with its winsome Bowie/Lydon traits, on the songs.  
 
The playing, practised by touring much the same set around and around America since the Psychedelic Furs reconvened in 2000, albeit without Singles Tour handcuffs, is super tight too. But, while Heaven and its flipside Heartbeat, Love My Way, The Ghost in You et al shine, it’s safe, which is tough on the Furs’ ideology and tough on the fans who bought the band’s records before Midnight to Midnight. And it makes the very dull Angels Don’t Cry last forever somehow, like another terrible stadium-era Simple Minds song, while Don’t Be A Girl drives me back at the bar. If they’re not going to stick to the brief absolutely I’d swap them out for Pulse, B-side of We Love You, and Alice’s House in a heartbreak beat.
 
Both Butlers were bored with the Furs and bored with Pretty in Pink when they split the band in 1991. Time or circumstance must have sugared that pill though because they’ve kept trotting out ‘the hits’ since, ad infinitum.
 
Hopefully this Singles Tour wraps that 21-century conservatism. There are mutterings about another compilation LP and, possibly, a new album, albeit 15 years after that chat started. Then we might once again see gig adverts that simply say ‘Psychedelic Furs’. No contents no safety net. 
 
At the Forum they finish with India, the astonishing first song on their eponymous debut LP. Light guitar noodlings tee it up and everyone’s ready for the drop, led by Butler Jnr’s big bass. “India, you’re my love song,” his brother bawls ahead of a run of random, acid observations. ‘I’m an American…ha ha ha’. Fantastic. You can take the Furs out of London…
 

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