Brighton in May is a simply wonderful time. Not only do you have The Great Escape, Brighton Festival and Fringe but, due to the start of the European festival season, we see renowned international stars flock to our sunny shores to play special shows. As such, Ezra Furman, off the back of his phenomenal 2018 release Transangelic Exodus, which we called, “An angry record about America right now, in the vein of a terrific, detailed and structured album” arrived at the Brighton Dome for a very special show for the Brighton Festival. On this evidence, Ezra Furman’s rise through cult status into international stardom is secured, as he looks and sounds every bit the superstar.
Support on the night came from Honey Harper, former lead vocalist of Mood Rings, who played cosmic country-pop. As you would expect, Harper is a consummate performer, with a euphoric edge. Most impressively, however, is the delivery of his final song, a cover of Dusty Springfield’s ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’, which filled every nook and cranny of The Dome’s exquisite venue. Likewise, Beth Jeans Houghton, also known as Du Blonde, delivered a distinct fusion of rock and blues in something akin to the likes of The Kills mixed with PJ Harvey.
A few songs into their mega-set, Furman stated that, “When we last played Brighton, in 2014, it was the first time after the show that we sat back and said ‘nothing went wrong’. Tonight you’re getting an old school show” and it was true, the band suffered from technical difficulties early on, but it just made the crowd even more enchanted with the artist. “Ezra Furman we love you” a member of the audience shouted out vehemently. “That helps” was the swift reply. Furman may be an exceptional artist, but he’s also wickedly talented at making bigger rooms feel smaller.
An early highlight came from Transangelic Exodus album track ‘Driving Down to L.A’. With its ragged crunches of noise from Furman’s guitar (which takes a pounding all night), and electronic keyboard reminiscent of an early Gorillaz track, it’s an exotic, stirring early song in the set that really lifts the crowd into the performance. Likewise, third song in ‘Maraschino-Red Dress $8.99 at Goodwill’, which explores buying women’s clothes, is a precipitous and agitated rock thronker that whips the crowd up into a frenzy. From this moment onwards, Furman held the crowd in the palm of his hand and didn’t let go for the rest of the night.
Another highlight comes in the form of Transangelic Exodus’ finest hour, ‘No Place’, which Furman introduces as being about the “Migrant crisis that is happening all over the world right now”. It’s a crazed, frightened slice of reverberated rock and roll-meets-blues, which resembles Jack White at his very best. Throughout the night, the saxophone in the band lifts the performers, giving it that sophisticated edge with depth in abundance.
Final song of the night – Furman sadly left the crowd without playing an encore – ‘Suck the Blood From My Wound’ is the best example that Furman has a euphoric, arms around the shoulders crowd banger, with its Springsteen-esque build, and contorted guitar riffs. It’s a powerful number, too, as Furman shrieks: “They’ll never find us if we turn off our phones/ We’re off the grid, we’re off our meds, we’re finally out on our own,” with an immense amount of passion. Ezra Furman is a unique and incredibly fun performer. So much so, that during the gig I overheard someone lean in and tell his mate, “This is like The Rocky Horror Show”. Furman has always been an exceptional performer, but with Transangelic Exodus under his belt he’s not only got the tunes to perform to wider spaces such as The Dome, but he’s also showcased his eclecticism as a live artist.