The Psychedelic Furs, Leicester 2018

Tuesday, June 12, 2018. An epic day.

In simple facts, I drove 2 hours to Leicester, went to a gig, caught a few hours sleep in a B&B then drove back home the next day. The truth, however, is so much more…

First of all, when I arrived I had to locate another place to stay, as the first one stank as if someone had died there. Literally. A quick search on booking.com found a cheap, but clean alternative. after checking in, a short walk through the park bought me to the O2 Academy on the Leicester University campus.

It was there that the day turned awesome. I met up with my good friend Paul Garisto, who had invited me up for the day. For those who may not know, Paul is not only an excellent chap, but he’s one of the most solid, creative and brilliant drummers around, plying his trade with The Psychedelic Furs. More about them later.

Paul and I sat in the park for like an hour, just chatting. Music, family, drums, politics, drums again, (quite literally ‘All Of This And Nothing’) which is the way I like to be – doesn’t matter if you share earth-shattering philosophies or complete nonsense, it’s about spending time. Thanks, Paul – it meant a lot to me that you’d take time out for me.furs 3

 

Back inside at 4pm for sound-check, and I met others from the band and beyond. The lovely Amanda Kramer, the awesome saxophonist Mars Williams, and Rich Good, a really great, really cool guy who was also so nice in taking time to talk with me.

I also met a couple of other guys who were such great company and whom I enjoyed spending time with – Jude Rawlins ( former Angelhead and Subterraneans frontman and current guitarist with The Lene Lovich Band – see HERE) and Kevin Hewick, a great singer-songwriter in his own right who works with artists on labels such as Sorted, Pink Box, and Botheration.

Sound check over (it was a little strange stood in the middle of the venue listening to the band at full volume) we had a little time to hang around, swap stories, me to grab a burger, and then it was time for the gig and the arrival of my great mate Pete Galer, who drove up to meet me.

First up –  The Phenomenal Rise of Richard Strange.

Richard Strange

Richard’s stage show was more than a show, more than a collection of tunes. It was pure theatre at its best. His roots go back a long way to his first band, Doctors of Madness. To give you a hint, they were supported by The Sex Pistols, The Jam, and Joy Division. Yes – supported. The album he performed with his band was originally written in 1981, but has eerie connections to modern day US Politics.

Then…… it was time for the main act.

I’ve said this before, but there’s something about this band, this group of brilliant musicians, that I really… get. There’s great songs, with lyrics that appear at once simple and then phenomenally deep. There are driving rhythms and haunting melodies, unbounded energy and vibe, and the whole thing is sewn together by the two Butler brothers, Tim on bass and Richard with his unique vocals. These are guys who know their art – and it is art – and you never get less than everything.

Starting off with the seminal Dumb Waiters from the great Talk Talk Talk album, through songs such as President Gas, Heartbreak Beat, India, Heaven, Mr Jones, Into You Like A Train, and finishing with the iconic Pretty In Pink, they held the audience in the palm of their hand all night long.

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After the gig, I had the pleasure of catching up with Richard and Tim, along with their guest for the night, Roger Morris – an original member of the band way back in 1977. It’s true – hanging with your heroes is an awesome thing, and they are all just well-grounded, normal people. Although I had heard Richard’s joke about the hairdresser before – it just seemed polite to laugh…

They even signed my vinyl copy of Talk Talk Talk for me…

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Thanks guys – an excellent day, a brilliant gig, and a memory made for life. Until the next time, safe travels, my friends!

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The Psychedelic Furs – London 2017

Crossposted from Riserdrummer.Wordpress.Com

Last Saturday was a date long-awaited in my calendar: the welcome return of The Psychedelic Furs to London after five long years. Their Singles tour has taken in nine UK cities, as well as dates in Europe, South America, and an extensive US road trip. Pretty much every date in the UK has sold out. and that’s without a new album to advertise or anything crassly commercial like that.

Nope – this was a tour for music fans, by music fans, delivering happiness, dancing, singing and memories both on-stage and off.

I’ll come to the headliners in a moment, but first, a few thoughts about the support.

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I want to know who booked Lene Lovich so I can shake their hand. As support, the choice of music’s maddest act was inspired. Lene and her band played a set of familiar and not-so-familiar tunes to an audience who literally lapped up every note. Just the same now as she was back in the early 80s, Lene Lovich still hits the highest of high notes with a style and a smile all her own. The audience loved her, and the platform for the main act was firmly set.

Then came the Furs. And boy, did they deliver.

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Rarely will you see a band so together. Fronted by the brilliantly eclectic Richard Butler, whose vocals and physical presence on stage mesmerises, The Psychedelic Furs are – in my eyes and ears at least – the very definition of the perfect gigging band. There’s the rock-solid rhythm section of Tim Butler on bass and my friend, the awesome Paul Garisto on drums. These two threw down a firm foundation for the three melodious ones, all of whom I could write paragraphs about. Rich Good‘s guitar work is effortless perfection, Amanda Kramer‘s keyboard work is so spot on that it hurts when she stops, and there’s very little I can say about Mars Williams‘ sax playing that could possibly do his genius enough justice.

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Starting with Dumb Waiter and running through to a second encore with President Gas, we called in at all the familiar stops, spanning a career that has seen their fan base grow and grow. All the favorites were there, including Mr Jones, Heartbreak Beat, Heaven, India, and – naturally – Pretty In Pink.

However, a mere track listing wouldn’t reflect the sheer exuberance and joy coming off the stage. The Psychedelic Furs really do have to be seen to be believed.

I attended the gig with my brother (to whom I introduced The Furs back in 2012) and an old friend Pete, who has actually written his memoirs around gigs he’s attended. Given there are many, many hundreds to measure against, when he turned to me at the end and simply mouthed “How awesome was THAT!”, you knew you’d been there at a special time.

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I managed to catch up with Paul and Richard after the gig, and both confirmed what I thought – they had had such a good time, and were still on a buzz from the show. Paul particularly was amazingly relaxed and happy, and said that he’d not felt so comfortable and chilled at a gig for ages. It certainly showed in his playing.

Next time I’ll bring my copy of Talk Talk Talk for Richard to sign. Thankfully – according to him – this will hopefully not be too far away, as they are already starting to discuss a return trip to the UK. When they do come back, get your tickets early, because The Psychedelic Furs really will be the hottest show in town.

 

Blondie : Parallel Lines

The first of an ongoing classic album series, we’re taking you back to the heady days of 1978….

It hardly seems possible that Parallel Lines was released nigh on 40 years ago.  Just one look at the album cover, and a skim through the track listing, makes the tunes spring into your mind, as fresh as yesterday.

Fronted by the beautiful Debbie Harry and delivering a wholly eclectic mix of styles (pop, punk, disco, reggae, rap), Blondie’s music became instantly recognisable, and Parallel Lines, their third studio album, helped them break into the elusive but lucrative US market.

Rather than wax lyrically that much, let’s skip to the track listing (* denotes a singles release) :

  1. Hanging On The Telephone *
  2. One Way or Another *
  3. Picture This *
  4. Fade Away and Radiate
  5. Pretty Baby
  6. I Know But I Don’t Know
  7. 11:59
  8. Will Anything Happen?
  9. Sunday Girl *
  10. Heart of Glass *
  11. I’m Gonna Love You Too *
  12. Just Go Away

Of the singles, only I’m Gonna Love You Too failed to make an impression, but then a Blondie cover of a Buddy Holly original is maybe pushing eclectic just too far.

The others? You may well be singing them now.

The US markets lapped them up, making Heart Of Glass the band’s first US number 1, an achievement that they repeated a further three times over the next three years. Add to that six UK number 1 hits and success across Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Blondie had made it. The album, produced by Mike Chapman, harnessed the raw emotion of their first two albums (Blondie and Plastic Letters) and helped them bridge the gap between new-wave edginess and financially viable pop stardom.

The rest (as they say) is history…

The Psychedelic Furs – London 2012

There’s something about going to a decent gig that gets your pulse racing and cheers the soul.

When the music is pounding, the crowd responds, and for a while, a short while, you’re taken on a journey to a place where your work worries, your family woes, your money troubles, whatever else ails you just doesn’t matter.

People have long believed that music has theraputic properties, and every time I hear a great tune, played brilliantly in an atmosphere that’s rocking, I believe it.

On a recent Thursday evening in July, I was one of a great many people packed into The Garage, in North London, to see one of the bands I grew up with as a child. The Psychedelic Furs may only be known to most people purely for the association that their 1981 hit Pretty In Pink has with the 1986 John Hughes movie of the same name, but those whose understanding starts and ends with Molly Ringwald and Duckie are missing the entire trick.

As a live act, The Furs are simply superb. More than 30 years may have passed since the Butler brothers first formed the band, but their enthusiasm, energy, and sheer love of the job is undiminished. The music is timeless, the musicianship flawless, and the performance peerless.

OK, let’s discuss the line-up.

My start point has to be my friend and fellow drummer, Paul Garisto. I’ve spoken with enough people that know Paul to understand that he’s acknowledged by all that know him as a real gentleman, a lovely guy, and one hell of a fine drummer. We’ve chatted online for a number of years and I have had the pleasure of seeing him play both here and when I was stateside in 2011. Both times, Paul went out of his way to give time to chat and catch up, and it was a pleasure to be able to spend time after the gig with him, chewing over drum stuff, talking about the vintage kit he’s just got, and the stuff he’s selling to make room. The Furs have a real gem in Paul, and it’s clear to see from their performances and the way they interact on stage, that they know and appreciate this all too well.

Next, I have to mention lead singer and founder-member, Richard Butler. Richard brings his full personality to lead vocals, with a voice oft-described as ‘nicotine-filled’ and certainly uniquely distinctive. To see Richard perform is to understand the heart of the man and to get inside the song. He’s an object lesson to any wannabe singer on how to engage with an audience and make them love you. I was able to cach up with Richard for a few minutes after last week’s gig, and once again, a genuine and lovely guy, clearly still very much in love with his music and the buzz on stage (even if I did point out, to his amusement, that he’d just succeeded in generating London’s oldest ‘mosh-pit’!)

Alongside Richard, at the start as now, is his brother Tim on bass, singing away and bringing bass excellence and so much more to the mix. I swear that at times, Tim was getting closer to the audience than Richard dared to! These two guys so obviously love their job, as well they should, and this infectious joy of performing hits the audience across both cheeks and dares them not to join in with the glee.

As well as the three above, we have the wonderful Mars Williams on sax, bringing his love of Rock and Jazz to create those distinct licks that fill and stir around both the guitar track, which is delivered with energy and passion by Richard Good, and the keyboard fills, which Amanda Kramer weaves in and out of the musical narrative with consumate skill and feeling.

I have to use the phrase Musical Narrative, even though it sounds pretentious, because that’s what The Furs do with their music. Every song tells a story, every lyric introduces a new character, and you cannot but be picked up and carried along with everyone around you.

And so to the gig.

I went with my younger brother, who I have watched from afar as he grew up as part of the mix-master generation, believing that turntables and segues are the key to good music. He’s been a DJ, he’s run karaoke clubs, he’s done a bit of singing, and now, at the age of nearly 40, he’s just joined his first ‘proper’ band. I took him along and advised him to watch and learn, my boy, just watch and learn. I admit to feeling a little like Yoda introducing the young Jedi student Skywalker to the ways of The Force. Suffice to say, he keeps telling everyone how great the night was, that he has a new favourite band, and it’ll be interesting to see what effect watching Richard’s delivery will have when next he performs with his band!

Musically, you won’t get much better than an evening with The Psychedelic Furs. There’s a freshness and a vibrancy about their music that makes me wonder how anybody could willingly listen to anyone called Beiber. There’s just no contest.

Whether they are playing tracks with a driving beat, such as Mr Jones or Into You Like A Train, or whether it’s a slower, more melodic track such as Heaven or All Of This & Nothing, the audience reaction is the same – utter entrancement. They sound like the end result every other live band is aiming for, and deservedly receive the adulation the audience pours out.

The Psychedelic Furs are back in the US now, but next time they are over this side of the pond (or next time you are over there, anywhere near a gig) be sure to grab your tickets and be there – you will certainly go away happy. I did, the Furs did, and so did everyone else who was there, on that special London night.

Thanks for a great one, guys!

Text copyright Paul Shrimpton, 2012.