Review: Psychedelic Furs bring 'Talk Talk Talk' to life at Clearwater's Capitol Theatre
With 1981’s Talk Talk Talk, The Psychedelic Furs began the transition from vaguely sinister art-rockers to the shiny new-wavers who would crack the Top 40 with 1987’s Heartbreak Beat.
As such, it might be the album that brings together fans of the band’s disparate phases. It retained the jagged edges of the eponymous 1980 debut album, but with a greater emphasis on melody and song structure.
Plus, it contained Pretty in Pink, a shimmering gem of a song which, five years hence, would provide the title and inspiration for a Molly Ringwald vehicle held dear by the first MTV generation.
The Furs performed Talk Talk Talk in sequence during the first set of its sold-out Saturday night show at Clearwater’s Capitol Theatre.
Pity those among the crowd of 450 who arrived late. With a 7:30 p.m. start time and no opening act, the Furs had dispensed with Pretty in Pink, the second song on the album, while some fans were searching for parking spots.
Opening number Dumb Waiters set the tone for the performance, a full-bore blast of sound with Mars Williams’ saxophone high in the mix.
Singer Richard Butler (he and bassist-brother Tim are the current lineup’s only original Furs) seemed little changed from the ‘80s, save for the addition of some Clark Kent specs.
His energy was undeniable, as he bounced on his toes between songs. His grand, theatrical gestures were in the best British frontman tradition. His nicotine-stained vocals were as strong as ever. Butler’s voice may lack something in range, but it’s a distinctive instrument and the most identifiable element of the Furs’ sound.
While many of Butler’s Talk Talk Talk lyrics have a cynical, world-weary tone, the Furs’ performance of the material was brash and joyful. Could it have been the satisfaction of knowing that the album still holds up three decades after its release?
The second set opened with Sister Europe, a highlight for fans of the Furs’ original incarnation. The song’s studied menace was shattered by Williams’ second solo, full of jarring honks and squeals, which gave it a shot of exhilarating chaos.
The rest of the set featured some of the Furs’ better-known numbers, including Love My Way, which seemed a little forlorn without the album version’s harmonies, and the dance-floor favorite Heartbeat.
High Wire Days was an unexpected highlight, the live rendition packing a punch the version on Mirror Moves doesn’t.
The band exited after Heartbreak Beat and returned for a two-song encore of My Time and Forever Now, which left the crowd loudly calling for a second encore until the house lights extinguished that hope.
-- Curtis Ross, tbt*. Photo (not from Saturday night): Getty Images.