It took 30 years but Psychedelic Furs and the Church are finally touring together.
Sure it was a much smaller venue than what the two 1980s stalwarts would likely have co-headlined back in 1985 had the plans then not fallen through but they didn’t sound any worse for the wear, in fact, sounded practically flawless and really not dated at all.
Despite tickets remaining available the day of the show on Wednesday at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, OR and what initially appeared to be a somewhat embarrassing low turnout, indeed the crowd filled out much of the Crystal’s famous bouncing dance floor but didn’t use it much.
The Church took the stage first, five minutes early to be precise (imagine that!) kicking things off with the pensive “Block” and then “Reptile” off the hit record Starfish from 1988. “Toy Head” felt a bit rambling but included a solid rock jam to close it out and the underplayed or perhaps never played “Metropolis” off 1990’s Gold Afternoon Fix followed before the very prog rock “The Disillusionist” from 1992’s Priest = Aura.
The Church played two off their latest album Further Deeper out last year – “Laurel Canton” and “Miami” – and of course their smash “Under the Milky Way,” also from Starfish which didn’t capture the same magic as the album version, but pleased nonetheless.
As the opening act, the Church cut an abbreviated set, just nine songs, lasting an hour, much less than what’s usually a 20-plus song evening for them. Despite the short time-frame they managed to include a decent breadth of their catalogue including “You Took” the oldest track of the night from 1982’s The Blurred Crusade, the band’s second album.
Hailing from Australia, the Church formed in 1980, hit it big later that decade and then more or less fell off the radar in the United States though “Milky Way” still enjoys some airplay but mostly on “flashback lunches.” The band however has been quite prolific releasing nine albums in a seven year period to start the new millennium. They’ve got more than 20 studio albums to date and neither look nor sound like a band mailing in the remaining years of their career.
Unlike the Church, Psychedelic Furs haven’t done much work in the studio in years but continue to sustain a loyal following thanks to a number of smash hits from the 80s all instantly recognizable thanks to Richard Butler’s gravelly vocals. They efficiently carved through a 17-song set lasting nearly 90 minutes dedicating all their stage time to playing rather than making small talk with the audience. A little more than a “thanks” here and there and it was on to the next song.
Psychedelic Furs opened with “Heartbeat” and instantly it sounds like Butler’s already been singing for three hours. Actually he often sounds like he’s been up all night cheering his favorite sports team on and suddenly it’s time for stage duties. He’s out of tune, but he isn’t, he’s about to crack a note but he doesn’t. It all sounds, well, so perfect with the music.
“Mr. Jones” came next followed by the very 80s “Heaven” then the contemporary “There’s A World Outside” off 1991’s World Outside, the Furs’ last studio album. “Love My Way” was the first of several audience favorites and radio hits, then the catchy “Little Miss World” a new song from an expected forthcoming album. The Furs also played “Heartbreak Beat” with a great bass up front and of course “Pretty in Pink.”
The anguishing “Wrong Train” a previously unreleased tract given life 15 years ago, got a bit cumbersome but the trippy “Highwire Days” from 1984”s Mirror Moves” bested the original.
Despite a nearly decade long break-up in the 1990s, the Furs reunited in 2000 with Butler and his brother Tim Butler on bass, at the helm. Mars Williams replaces original saxophonist Duncan Kilburn and he got plenty of stage time playing on most of the songs.
The Furs encored with “Sister Europe” and Sleep Comes Down” rather interesting choices considering the somewhat sluggish tempo for both songs. Both would have been well-served in the middle of the show and replaced with the main set closers of “Danger” a more upbeat and rocking song from 1982’s Forever Now and “Pretty in Pink” or one of the other popular radio staples.
Most in attendance clearly were of the age that grew up with the band though there was diversity on both ends of the age spectrum. However, perhaps because of the general been-there-done-that age group with a lack of youthful exuberance or maybe it’s because it was a middle of the week show the audience wasn’t exactly a ballroom full of energy. And once the Furs started in on their final song sleep was indeed coming down.
Psychedelic Furs Setlist in Portland, OR (Crystal Ballroom)
- There’s a World Outside
- Love My Way
- Little Miss World
- Until She Comes
- Susan’s Strange
- The Ghost in You
- Only You and I
- Wrong Train
- Heartbreak Beat
- Highwire Days
- Pretty in Pink
- Sister Europe
- Sleep Comes Down
The Church Setlist in Portland, OR (Crystal Ballroom)
- Toy Head
- The Disillusionist
- Laurel Canyon
- You Took
- Under the Milky Way