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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Evening at Irving Plaza, Psychedelic Furs edition

Only fitting that after a summer that saw me re-discover the 80s with bands like Foster the People and Cut/Copy, I take a ride in the way back machine and experience something from the works cited page. 
Keyboards, harmonic drum beats, big, flamboyant stage presence, fun and unpretentious revelry all very much included.  Just two or three songs in I turned to my friend, who generously gave my wife and I tickets, "Why haven't I seen this band live before?"  Quite simply, The Psychedelic Furs were amazing last night.

Led by brothers Richard (vocals) and Tim (bassist) Butler they brought a strong energy and fed off a jam packed Irving Plaza.  Richard pranced and pirouetted around stage.  Mars Williams, their sax and clarinet player, filled the air with big, yet cohesive sounds.  This is a first rate and engaging band that need not be defined solely for providing the soundtrack for Molly Ringwald and Ducky.

The band had been playing their 1981 album "Talk/Talk" during this recent tour.  Last night they reached into a broader playlist.  When you take your mind back to the 80s (with some quick Wikipedia help) you really gain a greater appreciation for their contributions to the alternative movement.  Their first version of "Pretty in Pink" was recorded in 1981.  "Love My Way" followed that in 1982 (from the 3rd studio album "Forever Now."  1984's "Mirror Moves" brought us "Ghost in You" and last night's highlight, "Highwire Days."  It was not until 1987 that "Heartbreak Beat (another stand out from the show)" was released. 

Richard Butler not only has the most polished and relaxed demeanor on stage I have seen in quite some time, he is also big on voice.  There were few moments when he had vocal accompaniment, and for good reason.  His projection and command dominated the room last night.   Mark Foster, Brandon Flowers and hell, every lead singer, should take some tips from him as to how to maintain this presence.   At 55 he was spry and fit.   I can barely get out of bed at age 38. 

The catalog of songs holds up quite nicely too.  Having never seen Bruce Springsteen (I know, what kind of Jersey music fan am I???) it was my first time seeing a sax take center stage.  Williams is a force.  I guess it did not occur to me as I heard them on the radio or in a John Hughes film, they are very reliant on horns.  Williams is classically trained but clearly in his element playing rock and roll. 

They will continue the tour (like they have been for years now- who freakin knew???) with a stop this Saturday in Montclair, NJ  I am seriously considering a repeat performance.  They really were that good.  And a nice reminder that the 80s were far more than Guns and Roses, U2, Bruce, and hairbands.  That stuff has its place and I will forever be a fan.

It is the Alt movement that I will always remember.  As REM retires and U2 makes Broadway shows I ask you to take a hard look at some of their influential peers.  I know the bands I have seen the past 12 months respect their elders.  Bout time we all do too.

I would be a fool to not mention their opening act, Tom Tom Club.  First, it should be noted that Tina Weymouth(bass/vocals) looks amazing.  I suppose all of the touring keeps these folks in good shape.  This former side project of the Talking Heads is very much a family act.  Weymouth's husband (Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz) and their son Kid Genseng (turntable) make up for 3/5 the members.  Their set was heavy on covers, namely Hot Chocolate's "You Sexy Thing" and the Heads "Take Me to The River" and "Psycho Killer."  It was a nice, easy start to the evening.  The fact that they are touring at all is fairly big news I am told.  This is their longest tour ever since they formed 30 years ago.  Not a bad idea to see their final 3 songs should you see the Furs too.


As my wonderful mother was kind enough to pick up my daughter from school/watch her there was occassion to dine in NYC.  So I put my aspersions aside and gave celebrity chef Tom Colicchio some of my hard earned money.  We visited CraftBar( for the first time in more than 5 years.  The Flatiron neighboorhod is great.  CraftBar is a nice, open room with comfortable tables and a BEYOND eager staff.  Be prepared to be the center of attention should you arrive here before 6pm.  Our waitress was attentive, can you tell?  My wife had some blood orange cocktail the house recommended and for a moment I thought she was part of a big Pharma trial study.  4 times asking?  Really? 

Anyway the food was delicious as always.  A cheese plate, beet salad, risotto and veal meatballs over fresh pasta were among the items we enjoyed.  Desserts included a Spiced Pear Cake and imaginative Peanut Butter ice cream with concord grape jelly.  I picked the wrong dessert for sure.  The espresso was like finely tuned airplane fuel, which I loved. 

He may be overexposed and he did appear in "The Smurfs Movie."  But his bar/casual dining place is still great after all these years.  I will agree to dislike the man and love his food.  It's like Chris Martin and Gsyneth Paltrow...  I can listen to "Talk" even if they drive me crazy, can't I?

Works Cited:

"The Ghost in You"

"Love My Way"

"Pretty in Pink"  10 year old live clip.  Supporting cast was different last night and the horns are sorely missed.  Richard Butler has more rasp and Pogues to him here...  not terrific but adequate representation.  More amazed how good they sounded last night after seeing this clip.  They have aged nicely.

"Heartbreak Beat"  Truly classic 80s song and a highlight from last night.  The sax here is spot on.  This is the soundtrack of my youth and I am embarrased it took me so long to see them live.

"Highwire Days"  Taken from a lousy device from this years tour.  Sound not great at all but you get a sense of how the band looks and how the sax is incorporated.  Lots of different sounds and influences on display here.  And consequently you can hear the bands of today using these very same patterns.  What goes around, comes around. 

"Genius of Love" Tom Tom Club from Jonathan Demme's "Stop Making Sense" 

Post Script:

There is a slight concern that all the synth and 80s stuff that has surrounded my life during the past year or so might turn me into a capri wearing, fanny packing sporting, man purse carrying, Euro queen...

It is ok, I have prescribed some Foo Fighters in Newark for next month.  I plan on getting into the pit and mixing it up a bit. 

What's that?  You heard about the Tori Amos concert a few weeks after that?  Oh, ok then.  Meet you at Urban Outfitters so you can help me shop for skinny jeans.  Do real men wear jeggings?  Should real men know what a jegging is?

And should they be listening to this while writing about jeggings???

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