Ezra Furman // Live Review & Photoset

13th November | O2 Academy

Photos: Craig Simmonds

It has been just eighteen months since Ezra Furman played Colston Hall in support of his 2018 LP, Transangelic Exodus. Tonight, he returned to the city to perform at the O2 Academy across the road in support of his follow-up record, Twelve Nudes.

Label mates, Pom Poko, from Norway kicked off proceedings with a wonderfully chaotic set of highlights from their eclectic Birthday album, which was released earlier this year.  Befitting the sense of community that his music invokes, Ezra Furman was front and centre in the audience to cheer them on as singer, Ragnhild, launched herself across the stage with a seemingly unbreakable beaming smile.

Much of tonight’s set was dedicated to his recent LP released in August: ten of the album’s eleven tracks got an outing, with only 55-second-long interlude, ‘Blown’ omitted. Twelve Nudes is less than half an hour in total and the tracks performed this evening were delivered with all of the breathless urgency of the recorded versions.

It was very clear that this was a no-frills rock and roll show. Two songs in, Furman complained about the venue’s use of heavy strobe lighting, explaining that they are a “band from America” and not suited to “clubbing vibes.” The effects were instantly killed and for the next 90 minutes, the focus was wholly on these perfect punk songs with no distractions.

The show was tight and well-rehearsed: the transitions between songs are smooth, with the only mis-step being a false start to ‘My Zero’ for tuning reasons. ‘Suck The Blood From My Wound’ crashed immediately into ‘Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone’ in a way that can only be done by a band who know these songs inside out.

That’s not to say that the ramshackle nature of Ezra’s earlier shows has been abandoned.  The guitars were loud, the vocal style was passion over perfection and the call-to-arms for the disenfranchised remained conspicuous and incumbent. He reminded the crowd that they have until 26th November to register to vote, dedicated sections to the non-binary attendees and was characteristically dismissive of the U.S. National Anthem, offering up their blistering and melodious ‘In America’ as an alternative.

In that song, Ezra sings, “There are too many rock songs/ Put it all in a two-minute pop song,” and at tonight’s show, they perfectly struck the balance between punk and pop.    The songs were undeniably infectious and packed with lyrics that are matched by very few of his contemporaries.

He told the crowd they are a “queer, doo-wop rock band”. The ‘doo-wop’ side of Ezra Furman’s work is undoubtedly what brought him into the mainstream and the songs in that style certainly got the biggest reactions at the O2 Academy: timeless tracks like ‘Haunted Head’ and ‘Love You So Bad’ had the crowd swaying and singing along more than the others.

Despite this, it was actually on the songs from the two most recent albums where the band really showcased what they can do. Free from the constraints of the guitar, ‘No Place’ gave Ezra the opportunity to stride across the stage, reminiscent of imperial-era Patti Smith, and unlock his true front-person potential. In ‘Evening Prayer aka Justice’, you believed every single word as he almost howled “participate in the right now/ For a creed that you truly believe.” The main set closer, ‘Thermometer’ was as frantic and powerful as anything IDLESare doing right now and left us in no doubt that Ezra Furmanis one of today’s truly great punk rock acts.

See the video for ‘I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend’ here: