Psychedelic Furs review – night of synth poptimism, sax skronk and glorious rock | Music

With his wide-lapelled tailcoat, oversized shades and impressive repertoire of vaudeville hand twirls, Richard Butler looks every inch the regal new wave rock singer – while also giving the impression that he might have left a team-building group to fend for themselves in a Crystal Maze. The Psychedelic Furs, the group Butler formed in London with his bassist brother Tim four decades ago, are now more than 15 years into their re-formation, longer than their first burst of punk-inspired creativity in 1977 and their 1991 dissolution. But the 2017 incarnation looks and sound tremendous, a seamless six-piece creating a dense wall of noise reinforced by righteous saxophone skronk from the seemingly indefatigable Mars Williams.

If most of the crowd at this sold-out gig appear to be of a similar vintage to the band – evidenced by a refreshing lack of glowing smartphones bobbing in the air – they seem as invigorated as the vamping Butler brothers by the racket. Their current conceit is to hopscotch through their singles, as good a way as any to trace the Furs’ evolution from drone-heavy art-rock to proto-shoegazers via shimmering 1980s bagatelles. By rights they could justifiably play Pretty in Pink twice, to mark both the echoey single that inspired the John Hughes movie and the slightly more antiseptic rerecorded version that became their calling card on both sides of the Atlantic in 1986. (In the end, they play it just the once, and sonically it leans more toward the 1981 original.)

The other big hits sound terrific – the cosmic swells and glottal keyboard of Love My Way, the limber sax backflips of Heartbeat – but they also blow the dust off some 45s that have rarely had a live runout. The billowing, urgent chorus of 1983’s Run and Run hints at why the Killers are such devoted fans, while Butler is at his most theatrical on 1988’s swooning All That Money Wants, hanging off the mic stand and acting out every line. After a climactic Heaven, still a gleaming beacon of synth poptimism, they are lustily encouraged to return for a double encore. The inclusion of 1982’s President Gas – a scabrous protest song written to skewer Ronald Reagan – seems both pointed and more timely than ever.

At the Ritz, Manchester, 3 September. At Birmingham Institute, 5 September. Box office: 0844-477 2000. Then touring.


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