by Dominic Yamarone
It was a Monday night, arguably not the best night to be out late at a concert. However, practicalities like sleep, or work, or classes didn’t stop any of Ezra Furman’s fans from coming out. Arriving at the Great Scott a little after the doors were scheduled to open at 9 PM, the venue was sleepy and quiet except for a few patrons at the bar, a couple early concert-goers and some volunteers from Freedom Massachusetts asking people to sign up to vote for trans rights. (There’s an initiative on the MA ballot to repeal anti-discrimination laws for transgender people on the 2018 ballot. Spread the word, don’t let it get repealed.) As the night went on and the show got started, the venue got more and more crowded to the point where it felt like a full house. The crowd had showed up, and all of a sudden it didn’t feel so much like a Monday night anymore.
Anna Burch opened the show with the first song off her debut album Quit the Curse, ‘2 Cool 2 Care.’ Her solo career is just starting, but she’s been getting her fair share of buzz. With a twangy, alt-rock sound reminiscent of R.E.M and a bit of Buddy Holly guitar, she provides a warm and fuzzy feel that makes you want to sway along to every song. Her ballad ‘Belle Isle’ is romantic and sweet, and drew the audience in just before she closed with her two crowd favorites. ‘Asking 4 a Friend’ is the quirky story about being in a relationship with your drug dealer and goes from a quiet, reflective verse to a shredding, powerful chorus that had the whole audience headbanging along. Anna finished off her set with the main single off her album, ‘Tea Soaked Letter’ an upbeat pop song with a 60’s rock beat perfect for dancing along to. Her set included almost all of her debut album, and was fun from start to finish.
In between sets, the crowd grew more densely packed and the excitement began to rise. It was clear that everyone was here to see Ezra. The crowd was filled with people from all walks of life and social circles, but it was very clear that they were drawn here by Ezra’s music. His newest album Tranangelic Exodus is the story of a man and his supernatural boyfriend, Angel, on the run from the law. It explores topics like being shunned from society, forbidden love, inner turmoil with faith, and self-discovery. His music is deeply emotional and moving, inviting listeners to share in whatever catharsis or inspiration they are able to find in his songs. His performance offers a much more visceral and energetic form of that experience.
Ezra came out on the stage dressed in a Maraschino-Red dress, and wasted no time getting to the music with ‘Come Here Get Away From Me,’ which he performed with so much emotion and grit as he writhed and screamed into his microphone. The first song made it clear that we weren’t just in for a great show, but an experience. Ezra was accompanied by a screeching alto sax, a cellist, a glockenspiel, synthesizers, and of course, a drummer. The resulting sound was a controlled chaos where everything seemed to be played to its absolute limit. He continued his set with the big band sound of ‘I Lost My Innocence,’ which he sang with so much power and emotion over the cheerful and bubbly backing music that it seemed as if his voice would go out at any moment. This energy didn’t go away for a moment in the nearly 20 song set that covered most of his newest album and some favorites on his previous solo releases (plus an amazing cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds of Love’). Ezra showed a very dynamic range, singing softly on more somber songs like ‘God Lifts up the Lowly’ and ‘My Zero;’ while absolutely murdering his vocals and guitar on the likes of ‘Driving Down to L.A’ and ‘Maraschino Red Dress $8.99 at Goodwill.’
To close the night and really sum it all up, Ezra Furman gave us this little piece of wisdom before his last song. He said that self-destruction shouldn’t always be seen as bad, because only through destroying oneself can something different and beautiful be created. Then he played ‘I Wanna Destroy Myself’ and left the crowd cheering for a solid 5 minutes. Ezra has been making music for a long time and his image, identity, and style are constantly evolving. However, he has always been authentic in his music, something that is clear when he performs. The emotions behind every word of every song are honest, and that is a lot of what makes his music relatable. I believe that is why, on a cold Monday night in March, the Great Scott was packed to the brim with cheering fans from all over Boston.