Ezra Furman – The Arts Club, Liverpool – 4th February 2018

Secret Meeting score: 80

by Philip Moss and Joseph Purcell

With his seventh record, Transangelic Exodus, out on Friday, Ezra – adorned in thrift store dress, beads and bright red lippy – took to the stage on Sunday night at The Arts Club, Liverpool to a heroes welcome. And despite all the success coming his way, he is not one to forget the past – ‘This is the fourth time we’ve played The Arts Club, but last time (just 26 months ago) there was only 60 of you here.’ The fact that this is now considered to be a small show (the main UK tour in May will see him perform at the 5000 capacity Brixton Academy), just shows the remarkable journey he’s been on over the last few years.

Opening with two new tracks (From The Beach House and Maraschino-Red Dress $8.99 At Goodwill), it wasn’t until he performed the brilliantly autobiographical Haunted Head, from 2015’s Perpetual Motion People, that the 500 strong crowd started to groove. It’s doo-wop backing vocals took on a new life and Tim Sandusky’s Clarence Clemons-esque saxophone solo screamed back at him note for note.

Tell ‘Em All To Go To Hell, which was recently dedicated to Coachella organiser, Philip Anschutz, in an angry tirade, is every bit the ferocious slab of punk it is on record, while Ordinary Life – to my mind the best song Ezra has written thus far – with its bubblegum melody and horrific subject matter of suicide becomes an ironic sing-a-long.

He is clearly proud of Transangelic Exodus – so much so that all thirteen songs from the eclectic new record make an appearance across the 25 songs performed – and the record’s first single, Driving Down to LA, and The Mountain Goats evoking Love You So Bad were particular stand outs. Whilst main set closer, Suck The Blood From My Wound, feels like a hit on first listen with its raw, anthemic synth riff perfectly complemented by his demonic vocal.

During the encore, Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love is an unexpected surprise. Despite its iconic backing vocals being the most famous part of the song, Ezra makes it his own by stripping it to its bare bones, vulnerably preening in karaoke style over Jorgen Jorgensen’s electric cello. Somehow its lyrics – when applied to the difficulties surrounding his sexuality – have never made more sense. Not so much a cover version as a reimagining of a classic, Ezra-style.

Throughout the show, Ezra displayed a genuine vulnerability, at one point even mumbling, ‘I’m struggling here’. But his truly endearing nature means the crowd allowed him to be himself- something he’s struggled to be throughout his life; the performance transcending into a cathartic experience for him. But freshly energised, he closed the set with a rollicking version of I Wanna Destroy Myself from his 2013 record, Day of the Dog.

Ezra is a progressive thinker who encourages society to celebrate and embrace their differences without judgement or negativity. This, along with his superbly eclectic songwriting ability, means if his trajectory since his last appearance here is anything to go by, there’ll be a scramble for tickets to his Brixton show come May.

Photograph by David Hoodless