On the surface, a bill featuring the Psychedelic Furs and the Lemonheads makes sense. Both bands fit into the indisputably silly “alternative” genre box, having some chart success in the 1980s and ’90s respectively. Brits the Furs are perhaps best known for their single “Pretty in Pink,” made famous by the John Hughes movie of the same name. The Lemonheads, although they would hate to hear it, rocketed into mainstream homes thanks to their cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.” So it all makes sense. Kinda.O
In fact, the two bands couldn’t be more different. The Lemonheads beautifully straddle the line between Dinosaur Jr.-esque alt-rock stoner-fuzz, and pure pop. Yes, the band uses Orange amps, and frontman Evan Dando looks like he just woke up from a nap on the beach. Yes, they enjoy to employ feedback. But buried under the noise are some awesome melodies resulting in tunes that perhaps require a bit of effort but are well worth it. Dando is a kook though, and he’s clearly having fun on stage, even if he doesn’t want to play the crowd faves. When his guitarist announces that it’s time to play the much-loved “Shame About Ray,” Dando says, “I guess.” The song is actually one of the least inspiring moments of the Lemonheads set, so maybe it’s a blessed relief that they don’t play “Mrs. Robinson” at all.
Even Dando’s acoustic bit is great (a song about lying about being the outdoor type is particularly sweet), and the fact that this writer knew very few of the songs in the set didn’t make it any less enjoyable. Weird bit afterwards though – Dando was wandering around the stage as if he had lost something and, as he approached a floor fan said appliance burst into flames. It seemed almost supernatural. If anybody knows what happened there, we’d love to know.
Flames quickly extinguished the Psychedelic Furs took to the stage with “President Gas,” and never took their feet off of that aforementioned gas. A packed crowd at the Gothic lapped up every little gloriously sarcastic vogue from frontman Richard Butler, while his sidemen (including his bassist brother Tim) just looked way too cool throughout.
The great news about the Furs 2014, as Tim Butler told us during a recent interview, is that they have a sax player back in the band, Mars Williams replacing original blower Duncan Kilburn. For a few years since the reunion, the band has tried to replace those sax parts with keys and strings, but it hasn’t been the same. Now, the dynamic is wonderful; Williams is a great player and he nails some of the most iconic Furs moments.
It’s been said before but, especially with sax back in the band, the Furs are like Roxy Music fronted by Bowie. Nothing wrong with that. Tunes like “Imitation of Christ,” “Love My Way,” “Run and Run,” and of course “Pretty in Pink” sound flawless tonight and, by the end, the fact that the Furs and the Lemonheads are sonically and aesthetically very different becomes academic. In fact, we were treated to two great sets by two awesome bands.