The Psychedelic Furs with special guests James
Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport
New York, NY
July 12, 2019
“We were gonna change things up a bit and do that one first, but thought better of it because we thought there might only be about 100 of you here that early!” So said James’ lead singer Tim Booth, after he and his band burned their way through “Laid” at New York’s famous Pier 17 outdoor venue. James performed the tune with a vim and vigor that belied the fact that it was originally released in 1993, only the fourth song in the band’s incendiary set, its biggest U.S. hit and, arguably, its best known tune. The audience which filled the intimate outdoor sold-out venue, knew every word sang along with Booth as the band delivered a fantastic version of the iconic tune.
It was a pleasant early July evening, and the evening’s show featured two bands which had huge mega-hits early in their careers (James and the Psychedelic Furs). The tour was billed as a co-headlining tour and on this evening it was James who took the stage first. During its set, the Manchester, England band delivered a strong performance that leaned heavily on its specialized brand of rock ’n’ roll/power pop, melodic punk and for lack of a better word “modern” rock.
The band was firing on all cylinders as it roared through its set…and the fans were loving it. Opening with “Hank” (an ominous strutting tune) and “Leviathan” both of which came from the band’s most recent release Living in Extraordinary Times (Infectious Music, 2018), Booth proved that his voice was in fine form from the very start of the evening. Other highlights from the dozen tunes performed by the band included: “Ring The Bells;” the anthemic “Sometimes” from Laid (Fontana Records, 1993); “Come Home” from Gold Mother (Fontana Records, 1990); “Extraordinary Times;” “Just Like Fred Astaire;” “Many Faces” (which proved to be a crowd-unifying singalong) and the set closing “Getting Away With It (All Messed Up).” The band (Jim Glennie on bass, Adrian Oxaal on lead guitar and cello, David Baynton-Power on drums, Saul Davies on rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, violin and percussion, Mark Hunter on keys, Andy Diagram on trumpet and of course, Booth on vocals) played with joy throughout the performance and had the entire audience on its feet, singing along and dancing in the aisles. Booth also showed no fear after he climbed over the barrier and continued to sing while venturing further into the audience to surf the crowd on at least two occasions. It was exhilarating.
After a short intermission, The Psychedelic Furs appeared and delivered a slightly longer (than James) set. The 13 song (including encore) performance began a pre-recorded operatic aria blaring from the speakers. Raspy voiced lead singer, Richard Butler led both the band (his brother Tim on bass, Rich Good on guitar, Mars Williams on sax, Amanda Kramer on keys and Paul Garisto on drums) and the audience members through the Furs set, dancing and pirouetting his way through career highlights like “Love My Way” (the opening number which got a huge cheer from the crowd), “Mr. Jones;” “The Ghost In You;” “Heaven;” a trancy version of “Sister Eurpoe;” “Heartbreak Beat” and “The Boy That Invented Rock & Roll” (which was performed live for the first time ever). Other highlights included the edgy “President Gas” (which seemed to take on a larger meaning when one considers the current political climate) and the main set closing one-two punch of “Sleep Comes Down” (which features with Diagram on trumpet) and, the band’s biggest hit, “Pretty In Pink.” The encore was a strong version of “India” which showcased Williams' virtuosity on the sax.
Although the performances were a tad shorter than many in the audience had hoped, the crowd members left the venue with a bunch of iconic songs ringing through their heads causing and happy earworms. Booth, Butler and their bands provided the fans with a fantastic opportunity to experience the Seaport district in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge while hearing some great modern rock.
Photos by Christine Connallon