Ezra Furman and Shilpa Ray, Bowery Ballroom

IMG_0884Saturday September 14, 2019

When I travel I always look for a possible concert to go to, so I was happy to see that Ezra Furman was playing Bowery Ballroom while I was visiting New York. Tonight’s support artist, Shilpa Ray and her band are great. Ray has been a fixture on the New York/East Coast scene for a few years now and has worked with Nick Cave among others, but the big break hasn’t quite happened, which is baffling considering how compelling a live performer and intriguing songwriter she is. I don’t know any of the songs but I like them all. Her voice is tremendous, from honey sweet to sandpaper coarse, she can whisper seductively and scream in anguish with the best of them. A bit of punk, a bit of cabaret, a bit of sea shanty and all done with heart and soul.

IMG_0819Shilpa Ray, Bowery Ballroom

And then it’s time for Ezra Furman, who enters the stage with his band, all dressed in blue jumpsuits as if they’re going to work on a construction site rather than playing music on a stage. Ezra of course is wearing a dress as he usually (always?) is. Ezra straps on his guitar and attacks the microphone with intense gusto, lots of spittage when he sneers the words with angry precision. He’s shedding a ton of nervous energy that translates into a stage presence that is tense and cool in equal measures. He’s a bit of a paradox, wearing his dress and make up, but with quite manly mannerisms, singing his old school style rock and roll and punk songs, smearing them with his own personal twist, taking total ownership of a music genre that’s been done to death but somehow there are still sonic treasures to be found when someone like Ezra Furman digs in.

He plays one of my favourite songs, Haunted Head, with evocative lyrics like, ‘I take these aimless drives, from 2am to 4 I live these secret lives, Identities that all die off not one survives, By morning there’s nobody at the wheel’. 

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Two of my favourite songs from Furman’s latest album, Trauma and My Teeth Hurt are played in succession before one of many highlights, Body Was Made. A song about body shaming and the fact that our bodies are nobody’s business but our own. It’s a serious and poignant issue that nevertheless manages to be sexy and seductive too.

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After a energetic cover of The Equals’, Police on My Back, it’s time for the last song and the ultimate question: What Can You Do but Rock n Roll? In a world that seems to be currently stuck in a regression rather than moving forward we all have to do our bit to try and turn the tide. But in those moments when the weight of the world gets too overwhelming, perhaps the best thing to do, is put on your dancing shoes and ROCK AND ROLL.

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Ezra Furman setlist
(Intro song – Street Hassle, Lou Reed)
1. Suck the Blood from My Wound
2. Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone
3. Rated R Crusaders
4. Haunted Head
5. Trauma
6. My Teeth Hurt
7. Body Was Made
8. Psalm 151
9. In America
10. Maraschino-Red Dress $8.99 at Goodwill
11. I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend
12. My Zero
13. Transition From Nowhere to Nowhere
14. No Place
15. Driving Down to LA
16. Love You So Bad
17. Evening Prayer aka Justice
18. Thermometer
Encore
19. On Your Own
20. Police on My Back (The Equals cover)
21. What Can You Do but Rock n Roll