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  THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS w/ Echo & The Bunnymen and Glide  
  Earthlink Live  
  Atlanta, GA  
Reviewed by:
  Dilettante in Distress, with interjections from PostLibyan  
Performance Rating:
Sound Quality:
Overall Rating:

Today's concert review is turned in (somewhat late i might add) thanks to PostLibyan. It is mostly composed by Special Non-Minion Guest Reviewer, Dilettante in Distress, but apparently it took PostLibyan forever to get his additions in.


Dilettante in Distress:

When I read the ad for the Echo & the Bunnymen and Psychedelic Furs co-headlining show, I was pretty excited. From my angsty teen days, to my not-so-angsty college days, to my sort of angsty early 30s (wondering where the hell my 20s went) these bands have been steadfast sources of musical fortification. Now, especially in the face of the endless parade of alterna bands whose singers all seem to have that throaty affectation that sounds like Eddie Vedder with a bad case of Hootie, I am grateful that Ian McCulloch, Richard Butler, and the lads are still around to show us that all is not lost.

The pairing of these two bands was also pretty inspired. Both released debut albums in 1980, broke out in the United States with songs on the Pretty In Pink soundtrack in 1986, broke up a few years later, had lead singer and other band member form another band in the mid 90s (Love Spit Love for The Furs, Electrafixion for The Bunnymen), reformed, and are now creating and releasing new material that includes a live performance video. Not bad for two bands that had their respective greatest hits in 1987 (Lips Like Sugar and Heartbreak Beat) and then disappeared from the mainstream.

I had seen The Furs put on a note-perfect greatest hits show in March during which it became exceedingly clear that 21 years after the release of their eponymous debut, Richard Butler still has that trademark chain-smokey voice, charisma, and enigmatic stage persona that is equal parts Bowie, Ferry, and Lydon. But what would this Bunnymen/Furs nostalgia-concept tour bring? I'd purposely avoided the B-52s/Go-Gos/Furs tour in 2000, imagining an audience raising beer bottles in unison, jazzed up for that magic moment of yelling "tin roof....rusted!" .... and then there was fear of overhearing the inevitable question, "The Psychedelic Furs? Weren't they that Pretty In Pink band?" Ugh.

Upon arriving at Earthlink Live with old friends in tow, we were treated to a half-hour of sorta ambient, sorta dancy electronic set by Glide, whose members consist of Bunnymen guitarist Will Sergeant and his PowerBook. Keeping with proper Bunny naming convention, "Laptop and the Bunnyman" might be a more appropriate title. Pleasant enough, but not terribly exciting in a live show context. A dance club scenario might have worked better for this type of material. But hey, glimpsing Will doing his own musical thing out from under the shadow of Ian McCulloch was enjoyable.


As the resident Minion Who Understands and Actually Enjoys Electronic Music, i must chime in here. Listening to Glide it became apparent that Will Sergeant must be a total music geek. I imagine that this entire thing ocurred because he obtained a PowerBook (damn Mac cultist!) and some sound editing software, and his natural curiosity prompted him to sculpt some electronica. However, it plainly showed that he is primarily the guitarist in a post-punk band, and NOT Aphex Twin!

The music he played ranged from Orb-like dub (complete with overused samples from the The Prisoner, echoed bass, and beats buried under phase shifting), to vaguely trance (long monotonous rhtythms), to house music a la Fatboy Slim (loud hard drum beats). It wasn't particularly challenging music, but it wasn't bad.

I just think that Mr. Segeant should stick to playing the guitar -- that is where his real telent is! This was a pleasant diversion.

Okay, sorry Dilettante in Distress. I'll let you continue now.

Dilettante in Distress:

Ahem. Thank you. Now where was i ....

Ah yes. Glide where unnanouced, and up next would be either The Furs or The Bunnymen. The bands were co-headlining, alternating the performance order with each tour stop. Since this was the first night of the tour, we could only guess who might be the first of the two bands. After a little while, Echo & The Bunnymen (Ian McCulloch, Will Sergeant, and newer Bunnymen on drums and bass) took the stage in a cloud of atmospheric fog that would continue to issue forth throughout their set, creating an otherworldly ambience that felt like a trip in the way back machine to 1985.

Ian McCulloch, complete with the same teased-up pompadour, took his place at the microphone and the band kicked into their biggest US hit, 1987's Lips Like Sugar. Mac's voice still sounds solid many years (and I hate to venture a guess on how many cigarettes) later. More of a foray through their back catalogue than a promotional outing for their latest release, Flowers, The Bunnymen played faithful renditions of songs, some dating back to the beginning of their career. Rescue, All That Jazz, and Villiers Terrace from their 1980 debut Crocodiles sounded just as urgent now as they did back in the day. The Bunnymen's later efforts, which became more psychedelic, balancing between atmospheric lushness (The Killing Moon and Ocean Rain) and spiky middle-eastern-laced pop/punk (Bring on the Dancing Horses, The Cutter, and Heads Will Roll) were also represented, in addition to several songs from Flowers.

Their set sounded great, the band was tight, but maybe the performance lacked a bit of spontaneity. It also would have been nice to see Ian move around a wee bit and engage the crowd beyond the occasional "Cheers!" and maybe vary the live versions of the songs a little, too.

As I waited for The Bunnymen to come back on stage after their initial set, I began to contemplate this slight disappointment, which was completely eradicated for the stunning encore. The encore highlight, Do It Clean, kicked off with Will Sergeant's angry guitar riff, and tore steadily along, prompting my thought, "So that's how The Bunnymen were in 1980." The guitar solo veered off into Ian's take on James Brown's Like a Sex Machine, over to the Nat King Cole classic When I Fall In Love, then stopped altogether, only for the song to recommence as The Doors' Roadhouse Blues for a verse or two, until finally regrouping back into Do It Clean.

Do it clean, indeed. The lush and powerful Ocean Rain was a perfect finale as a showcase for Sergeant and McCulloch, particularly Mac's strong and emotional voice. An overall satisfying performance that considerably surpassed my expectations of what might have been a depressing nostalgia trip to see a band whose time had definitely passed.


Um, let me interject again...

Dilettante in Distress:

Sigh. Okay.


I must admit that i never "got" The Bunnymen. I mean, their music always seemed pleasant enough to me, but it never really impressed me either.

And that hasn't changed one whit after seeing this set. Echo & The Bunnymen seemed to play very close to their albums. Now, i did enjoy the faithful versions of Lips Like Sugar and Killing Moon (which was their best tune, in my opinion), but the rest of their set just was.

I did not hate it, mind you. I thought that they were very good for an opening band. However, well, i just have to comment on one thing.

Dilettante in Distress:

What's that?


The "Ian McCulloch Lust Factor". It has been a long time since i was at a show with so many drooling women. (When was the last time i saw The Rock*a*teens anway?) And, well, i don't get it. He doesn't have the charisma of Richard Butler -- McCulloch just stands there hidden behind his sunglasses. And what's up with that hairdo? When Robert Smith did his hair like that i chocked it up to "bad ideas that occurred while on drugs". But with McCulloch?

Anyway, i don't get it. But maybe that's because i'm a straight guy. Maybe it's all pheromones. I dunno.

Okay, sorry, but i just wanted to get that out in the open.

Dilettante in Distress:


Anyway, quite honestly, the evening could have ended right there and that would have been fine. Seeing The Furs play was almost going to feel like overkill.


After some time and a drink or two later, The Psychedelic Furs came out in truly opposite style from The Bunnymen. Whereas taking two steps away from the microphone was a noteworthy occurrence for the head Bunnyman, Richard Butler ventured back and forth across the stage, grabbing hands, pouting and preening, and enjoying a bit of banter with the crowd.

And whereas The Bunnymen were a well-rehearsed unit, The Furs couldn't quite get it together. It felt much more like a rehearsal rather than a real show. This wasn't an entirely bad thing, since I had already seen a more highly polished show a few months earlier.

This time, the band consisted of original Furs Richard Butler, his brother Tim Butler on bass, and John Ashton on guitar, together with Love Spit Love alum Frank Ferrer on drums and never-before-played-with-any-incarnation-of-The-Furs Gordon Raphael on keyboards and guitar. And this new linup, to put it simply, rocked.

Imitation Of Christ was stunning, sounding fuller and angrier than I had remembered. Old favorites Pretty in Pink and yes, even the cheesy Heartbreak Beat sounded good. A raucous cover of Roxy Music's 1972 classic Virginia Plain was a fitting tribute to one of The Furs' primary influences.

A lack of polish was a detriment in a few places. For example, some botched notes during Love My Way and another song begun and messed up three times, after which Richard jokingly said, "I quit!" On the whole, this new setup was a good time to experiment and try out some new material.

There were several new tunes, here "field-tested" on the audience. Alive is an optimistic counterpoint to Love Spit Love's Am I Wrong?. It's a reflection of Richard Butler's happiness as husband and new father. Wrong Train has a Bowiesque chorus that could definitely make the former Thin White Duke wonder why he didn't think of it first. Other new ones included Maybe Someday (not the Cure song) and Broken Aeroplane. If these new songs are any indication of things to come, I'd say that great things are still ahead for The Furs.

Other than the lack of cohesion, my only other primary complaint with The Furs' set was the omission of several classic Psychedelic Furs songs that would have added to the set, notably, India, President Gas, and Dumb Waiters.

Next time, maybe.

Overall, the show was a lot more than the nostalgia billing might have implied. These are two bands whose music and live performance still bear experiencing beyond the "80s band" context. Don't think we'll be saying the same thing about Creed 20 years from now.


How was that.


Pretty good. I can't think of anything to add.



She didn't complain about, or complement the venue on, or rant about, the sound quality! I thought that you Minions has an Unspoken Rule that 30% of any live review had to be devoted to critiquing the mix?


Ummm.... Well, now that you mention it.....

Actually, the sound was adequate. It wasn't a brilliant mix, and it wasn't terrible.


That's it?


Yeah, i don't think anything else really needs to be said. Besides, this review is ancient....


True. Now Dilettante in Distress, there is the little matter i need to discuss with you. It has to do with your free will...

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An AMAZING show by The Psychedlic Furs.


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