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Peerless live performance let down by a boring crowd.
Unless you are someone like me who was a fan of The Psychedelic Furs in their humble Punk Britania beginnings, circa 1978, chances are that the mention of the band name lends one to think of Molly Ringwald being Pretty In Pink and teen angst icon John Hughes. It often gets forgotten (or not known) that "The Furs" had had four albums out by the time of the movie Pretty In Pink's release. It's also little known to those outside of the band's fan base that they were borderline stadium playing giants of music. Having left England (yes they are an English band) they found a more appreciative audience in the States and were in the same league as the likes of U2, Simple Minds and REM. But just as gargantuan fame beckoned they retreated from it, and for various in house reasons bowed out after 1991 album World Outside.
Which brings us to the "reunion" in 2000 where the guys decided that to be out on the road again was actually quite fun. Which in turn led to more gigs and the release of a greatest hits live CD (Beautiful Chaos) and this 2001 DVD live at House Of Blues, Atlanta. Track wise the DVD is a good cross section of their output, from the psychedelia based India and Sister Europe from their self titled debut album; to Better Days from career closure World Outside, it's a good spread from their 11 year recorded efforts. Tho the absence of President Gas (included on the CD release) & Forever Now (played on the tour) from the disc are phenomenal errors.
As a live show from the band it's tight and on the money. Frontman Richard Butler's voice has never changed, here it still sounds as husky as ever, a voice that sounds like it's been constantly gargled with reams of cigarettes and good old Oirish Whiskey. Here, he, as always, gives it his all, dancing, prancing and trying to work the crowd. Brother of Richard, and founding member, Tim Butler, still looks like a member of the Velvet Underground, cool and delivering his pulse beat base lines with consummate ease. Then there is John Ashton, one of the most undervalued English guitarists from the post punk British era that contained the likes of The Cure, Echo & The Bunnymen, U2 and The Smiths. He may not be demonstrative in stage presence, but his guitar most certainly is. Earl Harven is on stick duties and pounds them with metronomic precision. While Richard Fortus, looking like a punky Adrien Brody, is the one pinging out the quintessential "Furs" sound from his rhythm guitar. It's not sax, it's not keyboards, it's Richard doing wonders with his bottom strings.
Shame then that the crowd are dull and barely able to create an atmosphere.
The venue is packed, the crowd looks to be a grown up one (so not the Pretty In Pink teen crowd that followed the band following the reworking of that tune for the film), yet apart from those at the front desperately trying to shake Richard's hand (where he duly obliges all thru the gig), it's pans out as just being polite applause and the occasional cheer for the tunes played from Mirror Moves (84) & Midnight To Midnight (87), the latter of which would contain the reworked Pretty In Pink that was originally part of their best album, Talk Talk Talk 1981. The signs are there from the off as the band open with India, a song that has an elongated swirl of psychedelic guitars that suddenly bursts into life as a head pounding panzer attack of a song. The crowd reaction? Nothing! The punk strains of Mr. Jones & Into You Like A Train are met with the same nodding dog acknowledgement. Even the raucous noise of DVD closer Dumb Waiters barely musters up more than a few woo-hoos and golf claps. For audience involvement it's one of the most tepid of DVD releases.
Extras on the DVD contain three excellent acoustic versions of Love My Way, Wrong Train & Cigarette. A 14 minute featurette is too short but worthy, note how Tim Butler wryly observes that the reworking of Pretty In Pink was both a blessing and a curse. While Richard Butler provides a commentary for four songs; Love My Way, Wrong Train, Pretty In Pink & Sister Europe. There's also a pointless disc filler in the form of a trivia game. So for the performance of the band, for fans, this is an essential DVD. But a mixed bag it is, one that ultimately is far from a true reflection of how the band could ignite a crowd. They deserved better, and so do those who buy the DVD. 7/10
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