Ezra Furman was all over CMJ this year. I was lucky enough to see him twice-once at a matinee showcase for Brooklyn Vegan, and again at a headlining spot at The Knitting Factory. I’ve always felt like seeing a band more than once in a short span of time is like hearing a the same joke back to back-you get to see if it really holds up, or whether it was never all that funny to begin with.
To stick with the simile: Ezra Furman is a fantastic joke.
Both of his sets were almost entirely different. I only heard one or two repeat songs and even those were performed with little idiosyncratic tweaks in delivery or time signature. One thing that did stay constant was the quality of the gigs. Much like Furman seems incapable of writing a bad song, he also can’t manage to play a boring show. I guess there are things it’s good to be bad at after all.
Ezra Furman is often labeled a new act, but he’s already got a decent sized catalogue to pull from while performing. Several albums deep in his career, he still plays from many of them, which is both convenient and wonderful because, well, they’re all great records.
His latest release Perpetual Motion People however, seems to be the one that’s finally getting him noticed internationally (including by the godfather of punk himself, Iggy Pop.) I first heard the record on BBC 6 Music and knew Furman was something special straight away. PMP zips from folk to punk, doo-wop to soul, and is never scant on infectious pop licks. It’s not an easy sound to define, but neither is Furman the man – and I’m starting to think he likes it that way. Many of his lyrical themes involve sexuality and gender identity, or as he put it last Wednesday night before introducing “Body Was Made” at Knitting Factory, being “body positive.”
Despite Furman’s flamboyant appearance – he’s rarely without his pearls and red lipstick – he is an endearingly shy performer. As a fan shouted, “I love your shoes!” he coyly looked down and whispered, “thank you” off mic. At the Brooklyn Vegan showcase he fawned: “Aw look at all you, standing there, you’re all so cute just standing there. Look, I’m infantilizing you for personal gain because – well, I’m really uncomfortable.”
Yes, Ezra Furman certainly is a strange one. And we wouldn’t have him any other way.