When he’s leading the Psychedelic Furs through songs he has performed thousands of times over three decades, lead singer Richard Butler still acts like he’s having more fun than anyone in the room. His enthusiasm is contagious; on top of that, he has nostalgia on his side.
Sunday night, a crowd of about 800 gathered at the Midland theater, where Butler and the Furs put on a show that lasted nearly 90 minutes and rejoiced in the band’s heydays, which produced some of the more enduring songs of the 1980s.
The Furs bear some obvious influences, from Bowie to early punk, yet they have developed an inimitable sound, one that starts with Butler’s snarly, post-punk, Cockney-accented voice and is embellished by saxophonist Mars Williams, the second-busiest man in the six-piece band.
They wasted little time plumbing their hits list, which drew heavily from the stellar “Mirror Moves” album: “Heartbeat,” the lovely “The Ghost in You” and “Here Come Cowboys” came early. So did “Highwire Days.” The dreamy “Heaven” came late, right before the encore.
Each song was performed faithfully, close to the recorded versions. And through each, the bespectacled Butler danced and bounced and gestured grandly, like he was selling all of them and working on commission. Yet his theatrics seemed earnest. Williams, too, added some visual energy. During “Heartbreak Beat,” he paused and posed so Butler could sing into the bell of his sax. The presence of Butler’s brother, bassist Tim Butler, was also felt: The mix was bottom-heavy through much of the show.
There were a few lulls, when the setlist veered away from the, as during “Soap Commercial,” the sax-happy “No Easy Street” and a new song, “Little Miss World.”
A couple of their more beloved songs brought the evening to a close: the timeless pop hymn “Love My Way,” “Heaven” and, for the first encore, a grimy rendition of “Pretty in Pink,” which seemed to arouse the loudest response and the deepest sense of nostalgia, thanks, no doubt to the John Hughes movie of the same name.
They closed with “Sleep Comes Down,” from the aptly titled “Forever Now” album. As he did all night, Richard Butler acted like he was ready for anything but sleep and dreaming. Rather, he looked like he had the energy and enthusiasm to go on all night.
This Austin, Texas, band has connections to the Twilight Singers and the Polyphonic Spree. Lead singer Jeff Klein has a Jim Morrison/Ian Astbury thing going, which colors his band’s dark-and-dusky alt-rock tunes. Things were most interesting when the horn player Michael St. Clair, and bassist Geena Spigarelli were more involved.
Thee Water Moccasins: This Kansas City ensemble opened the evening with a set of bright, catchy electro-pop/rock tunes with all the essential elements: melodies, harmonies and fetching grooves. They provided a nice counterpoint to the rest of the evening.