First things first: the Psychedelic Furs in 2012 are a better show than any post-punk band whose first album arrived 32 years ago has any right to be.
Credit for that goes directly to the band, whose music holds up remarkably well. While many music fans were introduced to the Furs via their tune "Pretty In Pink," later appropriated for the John Hughes flick/Molly Ringwald vehicle of the same name, the band actually had already built up a considerable catalog of dark-yet-poppy songs that settled in nicely between the straight-up punk pioneers of the '70s and the synth-pop bands that came to define the early '80s for many.
The Psychedelic Furs were certainly offered up to the masses via the same channels--MTV, more specifically--as bands like Duran Duran, but they never achieved full crossover success until Pretty In Pink. But for "alternative" kids who listened to college radio, or commercial stations like KJQ here in Salt Lake City, the Psychedelic Furs were an omnipresent force for a good 10 years.
Monday night at the State Room, the band land by singer Richard Butler and his bass-playing brother, Tim, delivered a strong set of old favorites, with Richard Butler in particular evoking the band's heyday with his stage movements and still-gritty voice. Who would have ever thought Psychedelic Furs would be a band that would age gracefully, but that they did.
The band wasted no time in pleasing the crowd, opening with a strong salvo of "Only You and I," "Love My Way" and "Run and Run," all of them featuring Richard Butler teasing the audience, slapping their hands while strutting the stage. He remains a remarkably lithe frontman, even while he's added glasses to his look, and taken his mussed mop down a few inches from the video days.
"Mr. Jones," "Heartbreak Beat," and "The Ghost In You" immediately followed--some of the Psychedelic Furs most beloved songs. I quickly came to realize, though, that among the hardcore Furs fans on hand, ALL of the songs were beloved. Songs that weren't very familier to me--and I'm a casual Furs fan at best--made up the heart of the show, and tunes like "No Easy Street," "She Is Mine" and "Believe" were some of the strongest performances of the night.
Naturally, "Pretty in Pink" got a massive reaction from the crowd, and it sounded great. But I was most impressed with the fact that the Furs didn't end the show with that song. Rather, the song came roughly two-thirds of the way through the 17-song set, and it was followed by a group of songs that had the band turning up the volume, and the energy. "Highwire Days," "Danger" and "Heaven" rounded out the show well.
A couple of encore songs later--"President Gas" and "India," if memory serves--and the Psychedelic Furs were gone, about 90 minutes after they began. And one had the feeling that we weren't simply seeing an old band one more time before they disappear forever. Instead, based on their performance Monday, it's easy to imagine seeing the Furs a few more times before that day comes. I'd do it again.