When you’ve waited nearly 30 years to make a record, what’s a two-year delay in touring it? Such is the fate of the Psychedelic Furs, who in 2020 released Made of Rain, their first album since 1991, only to find the gigs to promote it stymied by the first Covid lockdown.
“Sorry about all the cancellations we’ve had! It’s good to see you all,” drawls Richard Butler, although it’s a surprise he can see anything at all through his inevitable rock’n’roll shades. The vocalist remains an elegant stick insect, a tremendously compelling old-school frontman possessed of a winningly imperious swagger.
The Psychedelic Furs formed in the post-punk rush of 1977 yet their provenance was far more classicist. Art-rockers to their preening core, they took their name from the Velvet Underground’s song Venus in Furs and their musical cues from the doomed-glamour leftfield pop of Roxy Music and, overwhelmingly, David Bowie.
The six-piece started out all attitude and angularity but broke into the mainstream, on both sides of the Atlantic, in the 80s when they embraced pop smarts, radio-friendly melodies and killer tunes. Typical was the honeyed The Ghost in You, dedicated tonight to recently deceased punk icon Jordan and a fantastic slice of suave, sinister pop noir.
Butler’s nicotine rasp of a vocal remains a thing of wonder on Pretty in Pink, a misreading of which famously inspired John Hughes’s 1986 high-school romcom movie. Tonight’s set has lulls: new tracks Don’t Believe and Ash Wednesday are broodingly atmospheric but lack the barbed-velvet alchemy that the band summon at their peak. Yet the 65-year-old Butler is still a fantastic showman, all bows, feints and cross-legged crouches on the mannered croon of 1984 single Heaven.
The Psychedelic Furs encore with the opening two tracks of their self-titled 1980 debut album: the immaculate angst of Sister Europe and the adrenaline flail of India, which could be John Lydon’s Public Image Ltd in a fearful bate. The songs, like the band, have aged disgracefully well.