Ezra Furman at Uea Waterfront NorwichSupport: Porridge Radio
May 29, 2019 at Uea Waterfront Norwich
Promoter: VMS Live
Ezra Furman strolls onto stage, slings the gold-and-white Gretsch and begins to strum the sombre solo of ‘God Lifts Up the Lowly’. His voice is instantly harrowing and breathtaking. The band jump on stage to burn through ‘Tip of a Match’ and Ezra declares that they haven’t made the trip from Chicago to Norwich in five years before purring in jest that “we’re not like them”. The band send bass lines piling off the stage on ‘Restless Year’ which reverberate around a sun-kissed lively fifties rock ‘n’ roll-enthused anthem. Ezra spins and dances around rasping “Bloody nose in the all night diner” and equally indulgent and intoxicating passages over waves of “ooohs” and “laaas”.
A string-snap and some quick thinking treats the audience to Ezra staying tuned in D for ‘My Body Was Made’ so we all fucking relax. Their Vampire Weekend cover flings the audience around and trumps the original. He sings to the bop of the instrumentation and the constant drumming sounds not too far from an early breakaway punk song. After a few more fast numbers Ezra confesses, “I don’t know maybe we’re a punk band now. . . or maybe we always was”.
The band premier some new songs including Ezra’s personal favourite, ‘Evening Prayer’, which deals with angst-filled issues surrounding his Jewish faith and his class. Some chaos is unleashed on ‘Calm Down’, with eerie “woo-woos” from the guitarist and bassist and a maraca from the drummer. ‘Ordinary Life’ washes a simple but beautiful modern ballad about despair, and overcoming it, before the band slip into ‘My Zero’, one of their most well-known songs, towards the end of the set. A special mention to ‘Suck the Blood from My Wound’ which was a loud and lively way to wind down the show. Furman also snuck back on stage for an encore in the form of a Townes Van Zandt cover of ‘To Live is to Fly’ through only his acoustic guitar and mic.
Ezra is a spectacular performer and an incredibly humble and passionate musician; remembering back to seeing him play an acoustic set to fifty people on the Wood Sage at End of the Road and most recently to seeing him play to a few thousand at All Points East in London, it is clear he can do it all when it comes to live music. He’s importantly pushing the boundaries of modern song-writing, blending garage and more traditional rock with pop and more to bring something fresh to the table. It is emotionally mature while also making you think back about growing-up and finding yourself. He’s got a way of making a compelling piece of storytelling full of sensitivity, anger, bliss, sadness and joy all at the same time. Another great example of bands experimenting with this sound comes from the support for the Norwich show, Porridge Radio from Brighton whose emotionally charged dips-and-dives through the raw emotions of young love was a very fitting prelude. I think there’s something to be said for his openness and the changing of the rhetoric around gender too. I didn’t expect to enjoy his set quite as much as I did and I’m definitely anticipating the new album.