Ohen you’ve waited almost 30 years to make a record, what’s a two-year delay before you shoot it? Such is the fate of the Psychedelic Furs, who in 2020 released Made of Rain, their first album since 1991, only to find gigs to promote it stalled by the first Covid lockdown.
“Sorry for all the cancellations we’ve had! It’s good to see you all”, launches Richard Butler, even if it is surprising that he can see anything through his inevitable rock’n’roll sunglasses. The singer remains an elegant stick insect, an extremely convincing old-school leader with a winning and imperious swagger.
The Psychedelic Furs formed in the post-punk rush of 1977, but their provenance was much more classic. Art-rockers to their core, they take their name from the Velvet Underground song Venus in Furs and their musical cues from the doomed glamorous left-wing pop of Roxy Music and, overwhelmingly, David Bowie.
The six-piece started out with attitude and angularity, but burst into the mainstream, on both sides of the Atlantic, in the ’80s when they embraced pop smarts, radio-friendly melodies and tunes that kill. Typical was the honeyed The Ghost in You, dedicated tonight to recently deceased punk icon Jordan and a fantastic slice of suave, sinister noir pop.
The nicotine rasp of a Butler voice remains a marvel on Pretty in Pink, the misreading of which inspired John Hughes’ acclaimed 1986 romantic comedy film. Tonight’s set has lulls: new tracks Don ‘t Believe and Ash Wednesday are moody but lack the barbed-velvet chemistry the band invoked in their heyday. Yet the 65-year-old Butler is still a fantastic showman, all bows, feints and squats cross-legged to the mannered croon of 1984 single Heaven.
The Psychedelic Furs recall the first two tracks from their 1980 self-titled debut album: the pristine anguish of Sister Europe and the adrenaline scourge of India, which could be John Lydon’s Public Image Ltd in a gruesome battle. The songs, like the band, have aged shamefully well.