I wasn’t expecting to see another show after hitting The Killers set at UIC Pavillion. It was Christmas time so I was traveling around and didn’t even consider the possibility. But then I remembered that Ezra Furman was playing two nights in the area, and I just couldn’t stay away. Even feeling as lousy as I still do with a cold and post-holiday cookie withdrawal, I had to see one of these shows.
I opted to see him at SPACE, which is up in Evanston. I’d never been there before, but it’s a pretty cool place-smaller than I pictured in my head, but the sound system was great. The crowd was an odd mix, half of which was made up by much older folks (Ezra is originally from Evanston, so maybe these are all old family friends or teachers?) and the other half guys and girls slightly younger than me. The middle was all tables where people remained seated all evening. For most singer/songwriters this set up would be great, but Ezra Furman can get pretty raucous, so sitting isn’t the best way to enjoy his live set.
Despite that small complaint, the show was fantastic. Ezra commands the stage when he’s up there, endlessly watchable in his Woody Allen-like nervousness while talking to the audience. Once he starts playing a song, he transforms into a confident troubadour. Even though he sings songs about love, religion, and other serious issues, I think he’s as punk as it gets in his attitude toward writing and playing music.
As he was getting ready to play “American Soil” off of his debut solo record The Year Of No Returning, he said “I’m here to throw down gauntlets and start fights.” An introduction like that is exactly what the song needs.
The set was made up mostly of songs from No Returning and his previous album with The Harpoons, Mysterious Power. I was surprised he didn’t dig deeper into his catalogue since this was a hometown show, but I suppose his backing band probably hasn’t learned all the old Harpoons tunes. There was one song from Inside The Human Body (“Take Off Your Sunglasses”). They brought out a couple new songs that they’re working on for the next record, which Ezra said he’d be recording “next week, maybe.”
The first one was called “Cold Hands.” He claimed that it didn’t really have an ending yet, but it sounded good to me. A little bit rockabilly, which was a surprise, but I’m all for that. Then they played a re-imagining of a song by Paul Baribeau that I didn’t know, but I thought it was great. At the end of the set the band left the stage and Ezra finished up with some solo songs, one of which was a new song that he didn’t identify by name, but I enjoyed a lot.
In my mind there is no one writing better music than Ezra Furman right now. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg as he still has a few years before he hits 30 years old. If you haven’t heard his solo record yet, you need to immediately. It ended up as my number 2 album of 2012, and Mysterious Power was in my top ten of 2010. If you’re tired of the same old songs you’re hearing on the radio over and over, check out Ezra’s bandcamp page and let him change your life for the better.