Richard Butler’s thick and reedy, syllable-bending vocals partly define my rainy ’80s. I lived more than half that decade in the U.K., and the ubiquitous BBC Radio 1 followed punk as it slipped into more commercially viable, soft-serve New Wave. Butler put me happily back in my rusted-out Renault 14, bouncing down wet English lanes and singing along to “Heartbreak Beat” as it rattled out of my 20 watts.
Although the Psychedelic Furs lineup has changed significantly since their first LP in 1980, Butler’s voice is the requisite constant that renders the drums, keys and even his brother, bassist Tim Butler, moot. Granted, the Furs sound also needs a sax thread, if for no other reason than to underscore Butler’s voice. But classical and jazz-trained saxophonist Mars Williams does more than just play Butler-doubler. His Moroccan-spiced soprano sax opening blasts pulled my attention at the start of the show, and his solos on “All of this and Nothing” made this live version stronger than the original studio release.
With a few exceptions such as “Cigarette” and “Wrong Train,” this was essentially a greatest-hits night, but satisfactorily so. They satisfied elder fans and hipsters alike with “Heaven,” “Into You Like a Train” and “Love My Way” and paid their dues graciously with a “Pretty in Pink” encore. ★★★☆☆