Hideousness and beauty are contained within each other. One may complement or contradict the other, but in no circumstances can they cancel each other out; on the contrary, they enrich one another, and accumulate to form an all-embracing sphere that grows outwards towards infinity. These poetic revelations, each one valid and eternal, are evidence of humanity’s capacity to recognize in whose image and likeness they are made, and to voice this recognition. The Psychedelic Furs understand this complex duality, and tonight they embraced chaos. Beset throughout by technical difficulties that would have overthrown lesser bands, they embraced the real possibility of mechanical defeat and used their perseverance and prowess to sculpt new personal and aural victories.
The great function of any work of art be it long form poem, art house film or surging ’80s indie pop anthem, is communication, since mutual understanding is a force to unite people, and the spirit of communion is one of the most important aspects of artistic creativity. Why do people read so much? Or do sports? Why, night after night do we go en masse to rock concerts? What takes us into a darkened room where, for two hours, we watch a favourite band play the hits? The answer is to connect with one another. To unify spiritually. Modern life has taken a wrong turn in abandoning the search for the meaning of existence, in order to affirm the value of the individual for its own sake. Front man Richard Butler does all he can to keep that connection going. He squats down and sings direct into the adoring misty eyes of fans, and yells encouragement to those seated on balconies. He knows they have a lot of live up to and he knows the crowds are eager for a good time.
Such eagerness, however, can be dangerous, for the majority of bands will exploit the nostalgia of honest people, in order to rob them spiritually and financially. You can always tell the bands who are only in it for the ‘filthy lucre’. The Furs seem to genuinely care. They may not have played “We Love You” tonight but we know deep down that they do.
A true artist is only justified in their work when it is crucial to his or her way of life: not some incidental sideline, but their one mode of existence. The Furs only truly existed for fifteen years, before parting, realizing that they had by that stage crystallized their essence, refined and made pure their sonic and emotional intent. Over the space of seven albums, they honed an aesthetic and left it for the world to decipher. Self-expression is meaningless unless it meets with a response and the Furs are definitely still getting a response.
What do we get? We get fan favourites Dumb Waiters and Mr Jones early on; something to appease the album buyers and collectors. The sound is distinctive, the clamorous thud of drums, the skronk of saxophone. That clipped annunciation and swirling morose vocabulary. Then it’s time for the big one. They could have played Love My Way as the big finale. But it’s used as a preemptive taster for what’s to come.
They hit their stride with an eight-song run of hits that builds, both in volume and intensity to a glorious climax, before Butler bounds off stage left taking the band with him. The crowd whoops and without hesitation the Furs come back and do a version of India that feels as if it will peel paint from the walls and melt glass.
It very often happens that a great work is born of the artist’s efforts to overcome their weak points; not that these are eliminated, but the work comes into existence despite them. Diamonds are not found in black earth; they have to be sought near volcanoes. And tonight the Psychedelic Furs gave us real gems.