Monday, April 2, 2012

In My Highwire Days

The Psychedelic Furs
30 March 2012: The Kent Stage, Kent, Ohio

When I think of Kent I think of near-indecipherable streets and crappy parking options. I remember alternative nights at JB’s back in the ’80s, and getting into trouble behind the bar on the train tracks. But the college town setting was appropriate for this night as the Psychedelic Furs infused a boost of energy into the New Wave throwback nostalgia of Adam & Jeff’s ’80s Alternative Rewind Adventure.

After some pre-concert noshing and imbibing around the corner at Ray’s Place, Tracy, Jeff, Anna, and I made our way through the damp sprin
g air to the Kent Stage. What the venue might lack in ambiance, it more than makes up for with acoustical warmth, and when Richard Butler began singing “Into You Like a Train” to kick off a crisp 16 song set, you knew everything was going to be alright. Easily transporting the audience back 30 years, Butler’s gravelly, melodic voice was as rock solid as it’s always been. Seeing people we knew from high school and the old Akron punk scene only served to reinforce the wormhole effect.

Looking like he just rolled off the bus in an endeari
ngly rumpled dark suit, Butler’s joy seemed unstoppable as he shared high fives with the first few rows throughout the night, autographed an album from the stage, and connected with the audience of old schoolers through broad smiles and genuine appreciation. Fueled by a row of Coca-Cola cans on the drum riser, between songs he was all theatrical bows and pogoing.

Singing along with his brother despite not being mic’d, co-founder and bassist Tim Butler continually worked his way back and forth across the stage, s
triking the requisite rock star poses as necessary. With saxophonist Mars Williams and drummer Paul Garisto, who’ve both been with the band since the mid-’80s, the Butler brothers were joined by long-time Furs touring keyboardist Amanda Kramer (Information Society) and newcomer Rich Good on guitar. The playing was loose and engaging, matching the frontman’s playfulness.

Together with the charging opener, “Pretty In Pink”, “Imitation of Christ”, “The Ghost In You”, “Highwire Days”, “Love My Way”, and “Heartbreak Beat” were all highlights. For me, though, the peak was the mid-set appearance of “Heaven”. Butler’s performance embodied all the reflections of my youth… the perfect pop nuggets of late-middle school, the transformative alternative churning of high school, the postpunk reminiscence of my shared history with my wife, and the music-fueled camaraderie of close friends.

Looking for all the world like they were having as much fun as the fans reveling in their collective timelessness, the Furs delivered what the show closer promised: Forever Now.

(All photos by Adam and Tracy Besenyodi.)

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