The Psychedelic Furs at Kentish Town O2 Forum, London - live review

The ever-underrated art-rockers play all the hits and more

Cover art for The Psychedelic Furs at Kentish Town O2 Forum, London

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Psychedelic Furs frontman Richard Butler doesn’t say much when he’s onstage, but that’s fine. He plays the charismatic rock star with aplomb: pacing, crouching, theatrically acting out every line with fluid arms, hitting those crucifixion poses to perfection. Insanely fit for a 61-year-old, his unique, rolling rasp of a voice seems at first irrationally high in the mix. Then it becomes clear that everyone at this sold-out The Singles Tour show is bellowing along to his cryptic couplets, so it makes sense.

Forty years ago the Furs’ witty, poetic onslaughts emerged from punk and then sidled into New Wave with a Bowie-esque knack for gorgeous/gritty hits. Success in America and the co-opting of their song Pretty In Pink disrupted them, and a 90s hiatus ensued.

Now re-established as a killer touring band, they’re a stomping wall-of-sound six-piece with driving dynamics, Richard’s brother Tim still on bass, and a twist of saxophone mania from Mars Williams. So in random order we get early snarls such as We Love You, their evolution through Dumb Waiters and Mr Jones into measured, haunting reveries like The Ghost In You and Love My Way, and semi-dance bangers like Heartbreak Beat.

There’s the ideal mix of nostalgia and energy in the air and their first London gig in five years goes supernova with a titanic, topical encore of Sister Europe, President Gas and India. Heaven.

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.