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The Music Scene

Posted: 1:36 a.m. Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Concert review: Psychedelic Furs deliver crisp New Wave favorites 

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Melissa Ruggieri
The Psychedelic Furs took fans on a tour of their '80s catalog.


Butler Bros photo
Melissa Ruggieri
Richard (left) and Tim Butler are the only originals in the band.
Richard Butler photo
Melissa Ruggieri
Maybe a little Richard Gere in there?
Tim Butler photo
Melissa Ruggieri
Tim Butler has said he had no desire to join a band until his brother dragged him into it.

By Melissa Ruggieri

It’s only been nine months since The Psychedelic Furs last played Atlanta – and also at The Variety Playhouse – but for the welcoming crowd that greeted the band Tuesday night, it was long enough.

As frontman Richard Butler suavely swayed, dipped his hands in the air and led the five-piece Furs through a 90-minute set of soulful British art-rock, fans in the nearly-full venue bopped along happily to their musical stroll through the ‘80s.

While the band hasn’t released a studio album since 1991, they did edge into the current century late in the show with the lovely “Wrong Train,” a song that is the closest the Furs get to a plaintive ballad (it was released on a DVD with a new millennium live CD).

But mostly, the group – sax player Mars Williams (formerly of the Waitresses), keyboardist Amanda Kramer (of Information Society), guitarist Rich Good, drummer Paul Garisto and Butler’s bassist brother Tim, the only other original member – fulfilled fans with loud, crisp versions of their New Wave post-punk nuggets.

While many ingredients caused The Psychedelic Furs to stand out among their contemporaries – the atmospheric saxophone that shades so many of their songs, the Tinkerbell keyboards that add a sweetly melodic layer of sound – the band is defined by Richard Butler’s voice.

It’s gravelly and husky, but also completely graceful in the way Butler emotes. During “Heartbreak Beat” (the band’s only Top 40 hit; “Pretty in Pink” stalled at No. 41), Butler flogged the air with his hands as he unleashed the song’s words in his signature staccato style.

Looking like a handsome English professor with his specs and mussed hair, Butler, 57, is an engaging frontman despite his lack of chattiness.

Whether kneeling to sing to the people gathered at the lip of the stage, posing in one of his patented leg-cross-knee bends during the Bowie-esque “Mr. Jones” or giddily bouncing behind the mic during the raw and driving rocker “Pulse” – both from the Furs’ 1980 debut – Butler presented an infectious joyfulness.

While a heavy portion of the middle segment of the show might have dragged for casual fans not as familiar with Furs album cuts such as “Wedding Song” and “Soap Commercial,” the late-arriving double punch of the soaring “Heaven” and still awesomely raspy “Pretty in Pink” likely quelled any complaints.

Show of hands from those who hope to see the Furs return in another nine months?

Melissa Ruggieri

About Melissa Ruggieri

Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for Atlanta Music Scene blog on ajc.

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