The Psychedelic Furs
Astor Theatre, Perth, Western Australia
15th November 2022
When The Psychedelic Furs announced they were taking their Made Of Rain tour to Perth, Western Australia, coinciding with a trip down under by Louder Than War’s Naomi Dryden-Smith, catching up with them was a no-brainer (despite the lack of camera this time).
Perth’s iconic Astor Theatre was built in 1914, pretty old for non-indigenous Australia, and refurbished in 1939 in an art deco style. It’s seen its fair share of decent, noisy, acts, with IDLES, The Church, Yungblud and Sisters of Mercy paying visits this year alone. With its satin drape curtains and red plush seats, the setting tonight is more vaudeville than post-punk, bringing to mind a scene like Nirvana’s In Bloom video.
The last time I saw The Psychedelic Furs was at London’s Royal Albert Hall, and prior to that the Royal Festival Hall as part of Robert Smith’s specially Cure-ated Meltdown. This is a band who through the years have proven time and again how much they deserve to be recognised for their position at the forefront of the British post punk scene. Songs like current set finisher, India, make sure of that. Plus their most recent album Made Of Rain, central to this tour, has been critically acclaimed over and over again.
So how is it, then, that a band of this calibre and energy can find themselves, on their first ever appearance in Perth, trying in vain to entertain an audience who (presumably by requirement, due to remnants of Covid or concern for those behind) remain seated for the duration? You can’t sit to the Furs. Richard Butler is a fervent, committed frontman whose performance revolves around an earnest engagement with his audience, rasping his clever lyrics with intense emotion and passion, as if every song is a personal tribute. And tonight, as he covers every corner of the stage, he is faced with what one can only imagine has to be one of the most static audiences he’s ever had. Towards the end of the show a couple of pockets of standers (thankfully) congregate at either corner in front of the stage, and Butler rewards them by grasping their hands fervently, finally finding an outlet for all that passion. How the rest of the audience can bear to stay quietly chair dancing is anyone’s guess. IDLES played here earlier this year, surely they didn’t experience this…
Confined to our seats, we twitch through glorious opener Love My Way, full of Amanda Kramer magic, as it curls its way across the plush theatre, and things become increasingly challenging with the insistent I Wanna Sleep With You. The Butler brothers are prowling the stage, flanked by the seemingly effortless talent of Rich Good on guitar and the ball of energy that is Mars Williams on sax. This is impossible. Mr Jones kicks off and we’re abandoning our seats and beelining for a spot at the side of the auditorium, where a friendly security guy installs us next to a bin, as Richard Butler ironically sings “I don’t want to dance”.
The security guy shares that Guns N’ Roses, also in town this week, have taken over the balcony upstairs. Delving into the jetlagged archives of my brain, this makes sense… Before joining GNR as second guitarist in 2002, Richard Fortus formed Love Split Love with Richard and Tim in 1992 and then joined the Furs in 2000, playing on the live album Beautiful Chaos. (And incidentally, at the GNR show a few days later, Richard Fortus leaves no one in doubt just how good he really is.) After a few glances upwards, and failing to spot any bandanas or big hair, focus goes back to the stellar performance issuing from the stage and the bin-dancing.
Coming 10th in our LTW best albums of 2020, we’ve previously said that Made Of Rain “is not only a career-defining work of genius – it’s both a perfect Furs album and a great modern-art-rock album” (full review by Ged Babey here). You’ll Be Mine is a standout track from that album and it cascades into the room now, tugging at the soul, like some kind of tribal or Celtic call to arms. Equally brilliant is Wrong Train, full of angst and raw passion, Richard Butler belting out “I’m never coming home again/We can’t agree on anything/And where the hell are all my friends?/I need you”.
Amid all this gut wrenching and emotion-twisting, looking around again it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow at the lack of movement around us. We do have seated shows in London – including the Furs’ RFH show – but that doesn’t stop people standing up regardless. It’s essential. I’m repeating myself now, I know. Thankfully the cheering at the end of each song is loud and long, so there is that.
The band carry on regardless, and the supremely gorgeous The Ghost In You, the bitingly caustic and sadly still relevant President Gas, and the infamous Pretty In Pink sit comfortably next to powerful new songs This’ll Never Be Like Love and showstopper No-One. The set wraps with Heaven where, quite rightly, the dozen or so standers at the front seem overwhelmed, arms up and wide.
The encore takes us back in time again to Heartbreak Beat followed by India, the very first track on the very first The Psychedelic Furs album, worthy contender for best of all Furs songs, Zack Alford smashing the crap out of the drums while the rest of the band channel all their collective energy into recreating that beautiful chaos once again.
A superb show, hopefully Perth appreciated it, inwardly if not outwardly. Hopefully, also, GnR were dancing their boots off upstairs.
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