o2 Academy, Bristol, 13/04/22
It’s a rare occasion that I attend a gig of a band my Dad loves and grew up listening to, rather than the show of a new, upcoming indie band that I’ve chosen to go through an obsessive phase of supporting. But last night (13/04/22), it was time for my Dad to take me to a gig of a band he supports, on this occasion leaving me not knowing every word or what to expect, for once.
The last time I was at Bristol’s o2 Academy, probably one of my favourite venues to see a show in, I had come to see Inhaler, an indie band that I’m a pretty diehard fan of, with my best friend and my Dad (a casual enjoyer of their music). I insisted we stand as close to the stage as possible, and, well, it got pretty rough down in the pit.
So, to make up for the unexpected (on my Dad’s part), I got him tickets to see The Psychedelic Furs in the same venue, a band he’s grown up listening to, since he was around the same age as I am now.
To my surprise, I’m not the only teenager there, and it appears that many others have accompanied their parents to go and see a band that has been going for longer than they’ve been alive, so straight away I have to stop constantly making jokes about my own youthfulness.
However, the vast majority of the audience is made up of people around the same age as my Dad, whom also seemed to have grown up with the discography of The Psychedelic Furs soundtracking their lives, like their music soundtracked the John Hughes movie, Pretty In Pink, with their eponymous track. And just like the gigs that I go to, typically filled with teenage girls, there’s tour t-shirts and merchandise dotted around the venue, marking out the Furs’ most dedicated supporters.
I think my favourite difference between the gigs of my favourite bands and that of my Dad’s, though, is the absence of the iPhone screen sea, meaning that, instead, I look down at the stage from the balcony to see hundreds of music-lovers living in the moment, rather than snapping a photo or videoing an entire song, then being preoccupied whilst uploading said media to their instagram story for anyone not at the gig to watch and revel in. Everyone genuinely looks like they’re there for the music, rather than as a way of making themselves look mildly more interesting on social media, and in 2022, it’s refreshing to see.
The band come onstage at twenty-five to ten, a lot later than expected, but are greeted by cheering and an uproar of clapping from the crowd who have patiently stood around the bar, chatting amongst themselves in anticipation for the past forty minutes or so. Opening the lengthy set is the closer of their fourth studio album, Mirror Moves, Highwire Days, a track I first heard after being mesmerised by Dad’s purple vinyl pressing of the record at fourteen. There’s some low level jumping in the pit from a couple of crowd members, but that’s as far as the energy goes, leaving all the crowd engagement and energy in the room solely in the hands of frontman, Richard Butler’s swagger, and often theatrical lyric-accompanying mannerisms, which also double up to make the music visually pleasing in the absence of major stage production.
The setlist consists of a relatively even balance of tracks ranging across their career, with many of the hits weaved in, such as lead single from 1982’s Forever Now, Love My Way, the massive hit, Heaven, and Ghost In You, a melody that, if you’re within the younger demographic, would recognise from The Strokes’ 2020 track, Eternal Summer. Between every song, not a word is uttered, other than the occasional “thank you” directed to the applause. A few members of the audience take to requesting the band play, President Gas, a track that I’m assuming is the “fan-favourite”. When it’s eventually played, it’s accompanied by dancing and low-level sing-alongs.
It’s impressive how closely resonant the live versions of the tracks are to the studio recordings, proving just how strong the musicianship and talent within The Furs is, and how even at sixty-five, Butler is still able to achieve the same vocal tones of the early days of the band, something that at moments leaves the crowd standing mesmerised. This is further reinforced through the impressive saxophone solo, courtesy of Mars Williams, featured at the end of India (the last song of the encore), rounding off the night with notes that progressively get higher and higher, simulatenously delighting the audience, and leaving them in awe.
As the night draws to a close, and we all file out of the venue, I have to admit, I’ve really enjoyed myself. If I learned anything from going to see a band that are a bit before my time, it’s how interesting it is to watch a band whom you know little about, as it allows you to really observe the feelings and emotions in the room. I loved every minute of enduring the experiences of The Psychedelic Furs’ biggest fans - I’d like to think my Dad felt the same when he watched Inhaler with me at the same venue last year, but realistically, I think his attitude towards that gig was much like the guy in front of me at Wednesday night’s show, who checked his watch a couple of times to see how much longer was left.
I don’t know if it was the music itself, or the absolute joy and nostalgia in the air, but I came out feeling uplifted, possibly from spending the past few hours living vicariously through my imagined scenarios of what each of the songs mean to the lifelong fans in the crowd; those with partners, stopping to kiss mid-tune, those with their children, those jumping up and down as the raucous guitars of the new-wave tunes fill the room (and leave me with ringing ears for the remainder of the evening) or those who sway and hold their arms out to stage, singing the words back. I initially entered the auditorium feeling like the youngest there, but I walk out among those who have never felt younger.