Bluedot, Jodrell Bank Observatory, Lovell Stage, July 7 2017.
“This is my favorite thing to do in the world” Ezra Furman told an adorning front row at Bluedot on Friday night, “thank you for being here with me.” And as someone shouted up at them, it was a gawd-damn pleasure Ezra!
With performances that are always mixture of unpredictable sex god and a sweet if slightly deranged vulnerability it’s not very surprising that Ezra gave the impression of being about to smash a guitar or fall over for the first few songs, may in fact have fallen over at one point. But had no effect on the sound, could have been that they were just taking a planned moment on the floor because every song sounded tight and The Boyfriends held a tension behind the raw and exciting lyrics that set the audience screaming. Tim Sanduscky on the saxophone and occasional shaker deserves a special mention for some great music. It was hard to take note of the rest of the band because Ezra’s stage presence holds the eye, sometimes pulling your heart into your throat, but Sanduscky played beautifully and his saxophone definitely brought the romantic bluesy feel that is so much part of this music to the stage. High energy throughout by the end of their set Ezra seemed to have settled into the music better, ignoring a string snapping at the start of Body Was Made and switching seamlessly between acoustic and electric instruments for different songs. Ezra did carry the mike stand around a bit in the last song looking like the changeling child of rock-and-roll about to run away from home and there were quite a few actual children in an audience who would have followed joyously into the sunset.
Two of those kids got the set list at the end of the show somehow and there were any number of us less fortunate (and many decades years older) fans hanging about afterwards telling each other how great he was. The 50s rock and slightly R&B echo’s were there in Ben Joseph keyboard and Sam Durkes drums too. With so are many influences audible in what I suppose is Ezra’s indie-rock, part of the joy of this show was how it held its audience through radical changes of speed of style. From what are now seeing sing-alongs like Tip of A Match to holding us in a cord riff, sax and keyboard repeating a tense line for about five minutes with Ezra just smiling through floppy hair, there was a rough emotion in every song and, maybe from Ezra’s Chicago background, a smoky jazz style freeness over an ever steady bass. Old time blues might have been at the front of all of our minds with Ezra in a slinky black dress, white pearls and red lips – the ghost of a grand piano to drape that body over clearly visible in the smoke. This is a band that is magical live, maybe an obvious observation, but the aesthetics of them is part of their edge, recorded their sound just doesn’t have the same punch. Although I was reminded of the irritation and joy of festivals acoustics and how hard great lyrics are to follow as closely as they deserve it was a simple and joyous to be dancing on the grass at Ezra’s feet.