Photos by Katrina Lat
I first saw Ezra Furman in 2011 at Live at Leeds festival. In the festival program he was compared to Sufjan Stevens; a description not only inaccurate, but doing a disservice to the rock n roll spirit on display. While it was a refreshing to catch Ezra as a harmonica playing rocker, there was a beautiful transformation as he made a name on the UK indie circuit. Perpetual Motion People brought a more mainstream sound to Ezra Furman and The Boy-Friends. Their live shows were talked up in small indie enclaves as they played pubs, student unions and sold out small clubs in the UK.
On my second day in Canada, I saw my fourth Ezra show at the Silver Dollar. Then two years later touring narrative album Transangelic Exodus at the Horseshoe – a return to his roots of punk, rock and now fully embracing queer rebellion. Latest album Twelve Nudes continues in this vein, and I’m so happy I finally get to review one of his shows.
Ezra is a sweet, gender queer darling who looks better in a red dress than anyone else I know, using both he and she pronouns and singing lyrics like “I was considering ditching Ezra and going by Esme” in the country-tinged I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend. It’s so important to have queer voices out there, especially ones brave enough to be open and vulnerable.
Ezra starts the show by suggesting that some of us may have come to see a version of the band that doesn’t exist anymore. Indeed we no longer have the ebullient sax of Tim Sandusky, but Ezra has already evolved through several bands and band names, and it’s thrilling to see an artist who you’ve enjoyed in the past surprise you each time you see them. Something that hasn’t changed is the way she appears both shy and brave at the same time. Reserved in her banter with the crowd but unleashed in her performances and bearing her soul to those in the room. I couldn’t help but fling myself around for most of the gig, captured by the driving guitar and energy on stage.
The band played almost the whole of the excellent Twelve Nudes including the “twelfth nude” On Your Own only available on the vinyl edition of the album, and featured a healthy portion of Transangelic Exodus. Older tracks were few and far between which may speak not only to the evolution of Ezra’s music; casting off the old, but to the emotional depth she brings to her songs. As each song is played, Ezra is swallowed up in the lyrics and music – sweating, head banging her pearls off, her chin glistening as her plum lipstick runs.
I hope Ezra Furman keeps singing and shouting for many more albums. Ezra tours heavily and I vigorously encourage you to catch her on her next sojourn through Toronto.