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Ezra Furman – 02 Ritz, Manchester 27/10/2016

The Northern Lights set over the metropolis of Manchester. Trams tinkle away as the street lamps blossom warmly from their amber bulbs. Somewhere, a carol singer is singing, far too early. Close by, an exhausted accountant optimistically sets his dishwasher was onto fast-cycle, despite the pans having some robust and challenging fajita mix to contend with. And here, nestled in the heart of the city centre, lies the musical vein of the O2 Ritz, where Ezra Furman is about to take the stage.

As the hum drum of the city enters it’s 3rd act (evening) the crowd gather and compact like corned beef. The venue is filled by those who appreciate and value not only the unpredictability of Ezra’s music, but also the unbeatable charismatic and hyper self-aware stage presence which brings the show to life. Ezra pours his heart into the crowd and absorbs everyone and everything with his raw emotive lyrics. Telling a series of true underdog stories which the crowd relish, relate to and reciprocate back onto the stage, he pumps the room with so much soul that the place gets foggy with human spirit (you can barely see your hand in front of your face due to the dense cloud of appreciation).

Ezra is the older brother of Jonah Furman, the frontman of the much-loved, relatively recently deceased indie rock band Krill. Whilst the brothers share a common lyrical theme in the wretched, near intolerable anxiety that appears to plague their respective existences, their music could scarcely be more different. In place of the osbcurist, abstract rock of Krill, Ezra deals in straight-ahead, unabashed pop music. He takes much aesthetic influence from the pop and rock and roll of the 50s and 60s, and his approach is clearly descended from the glam rock of the early 70s. But despite this definite and substantial retro throwback element to his sound, his music somehow feels timeless and even somewhat contemporary.

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The backing vocals of The Boy-friends that accompany his music give a tongue-in-cheek doo-wap feel to his music, which elevates some of the seriousness and heartache that are so apparent in the lyrics. Between songs, Ezra’s frank and honest dialogue with the audience help connect him to the fans on an heart-to-heart basis, breaking the fourth wall of the performance and allowing us a glimpse into his life.

“We may not be the best band, but we’re my favourite band” was my favourite quote of his. Self-deprecation is a tool which Ezra has grasped and uses like a blacksmith rhythmically bending musical iron bar onto a robust, tuneful anvil.

The lyrics to Ezra’s songs feel like you’re listening to an audiobook documentary of his life. Despite the funky rhythm and curve-ball sax solos that catch you off your feet like a neglected puddle of milk at a sub-par Tesco Extra; it’s impossible to not be continuously connected with his stories and become immersed in the rollercoaster ride of his ups, downs and internal loop-de-loops of his life.

The raw dynamic and against-the-odds power that Ezra creates keeps the crowd on his side and rooting for him throughout the gig. Sometimes I felt his lyrics became a little too convoluted and lost some of the connective simplicity which relates to the audience – however for the most part Ezra truly enraptures the room and takes it on a journey, much like a hot air balloon, but without the mortifying fear of falling 30,000ft into a farm in Wiltshire, and paying £480 for the privilege to do so.

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With thanks to Alex Thomas for additional material.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.