Ezra Furman | Live Review & Photoset

24th May | Colston Hall

Photos: Jessica Bartolini

Playing the Colston Hall seems a monumental step-up for Ezra Furman since his last visit to the South West. His new album, Transangelic Exodus has placed him firmly on the map, as has his new book release, Transformer, a study on Lou Reed. For true Ezra followers, his rise to fame will come as no surprise; he’s been expounding such candid artistry for over a decade now that it simply feels as though he’s finally ascending to his rightful place amid the canon of troubled, punk troubadours.

That rainy Thursday he brought with him Du Blonde: Newcastle singer, songwriter, and artist, Beth Jeans Houghton. She was responsible for all of the artwork that played across the back of the stage that evening, and on this occasion, she was accompanied by three musicians, all local celebrities in their own right.

The breadth of their sound was incredible: lurching guitar hammered around the great hall, almost biblical as the sound swelled and shuddered, Beth’s vocals emerging as ghostly choruses. Although at moments, the architecture of the room seemed to swallow up the crowd, they were still venerated. Someone shouted to tell her they loved her cropped top and tracksuit bottoms, and Beth laughed: “Ha, thanks! … I’m dressed as anybody who ever bullied me in school,” the unabashed individual theme underpinning the night. That was the theme which bought everyone out in droves on a rainy, grey evening in May.

Ezra Furman’s set began in a dramatic foray of classical music, white outfits, pearls and anticipation. Assisted by the Boyfriends, he played us through Transangelic Exodus, the stage cast blue from the spotlights, now creeping in through Beth’s luminescent handiwork. Tracks such as ‘Driving to LA,’ ‘My Zero’ and ‘Maraschino Red Dress $8.99 at Goodwill’ were smattered with older tracks, ‘Cherry Lane’ and ‘Anything can Happen.’ Then a rendition of Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds of Love’ began, the stage drenched in an appropriate shade of magenta.

Furman has a real affinity with his followers, as well as an unparalleled ability to convey sharp, desperate truths wrapped up in elegant knots of prose, and its these qualities which have earned him his deified status. At one point, he led with the words: “The odds against us all surviving to this day were high – audience and performer – so I’m glad you all made it” and then collapsed into ‘Ordinary Life’; the drumming ricocheted off the walls, the harmonies of the backing singers rose and evaporated into the higher rafters and Ezra’s distinct wails penetrated to the very back seats.

Following on from this heart-rending performance, he disclosed: “I think I’m just trying to react honestly to horror and fears – stuff we’re supposed to numb ourselves to – I think we’re trying to react as if we’re still human.” He strode back and forth across the stage, sometimes in spotlight, sometimes in shadow; glimpses of the man within dotted the performance. These emerged in the lyrics, the references to his Jewish heritage, in some of his more candid asides, in his unbridled fondness for Du Blonde. But always at the forefront was the theatrical performer, whose onstage persona is a beguiling outpouring of expertly-wielded turmoil.

After an earth-shattering, five-minute applause following their final song, they returned for an encore: the flowers received from an admiring fan were thrown back into the crowd, along with a promise to pay his admirer back. ‘Teddy I’m Ready’ and ‘Restless Year’ rang out, with everyone singing along, and then as quickly as it had come, it was over. Ezra Furman saluted the crowd: “This was my dream. Thanks for participating in its realisation.”