Credit: James Memmerman

Ezra Furman live from The Castle Hotel, Manchester

Fresh from his first ever live UK TV performance on Later… With Jools Holland, Ezra Furman headed north to the slightly more modest surroundings of the Castle Hotel in Manchester to showcase tracks from his upcoming third album.

Perpetual Motion People will be unveiled on Bella Union in July and has a lot to live up to following the glory of its predecessor, Day of the Dog.

Before Furman takes to the stage to greet an excitable crowd in the 80-capacity venue, there is time for a thoroughly enjoyable set from local trio Hot Shorts.

Their sound is one very much shaped by influences from the US, conjuring up thoughts of the likes of Weezer and Pavement. Closer, ‘Just Trolling’, is a great exercise in succinct slacker rock. A Tasty appetiser.

Furman arrives having just carried out some more BBC-based duties with Marc Riley, but despite the rush, the set that follows goes down a storm.

Favourites from the last record such as Anything Can Happen’ and ‘My Zero’ remain real crowd-pleasers and ongoing evidence that his ability to walk a tightrope between the anthemic and the rabble-rousing knows no bounds.

Introduced to the crowd as The Boyfriends, the band that back the frontman are rickety enough to maintain the thrill while never missing a beat.

There’s a slight hitch when Furman breaks a string, but Hot Shorts confirm their position as our favourite surprise of the night when their frontman selflessly provides a replacement.

Throughout, it is apparent that while a lot of what this constantly intriguing singer-songwriter does is theatrical (the lipstick, the snaking through the crowd, the segment where the saxophonist helps out with a duologue in which he pretends to be Ezra’s shrink), there is a punk and DIY ethos that underlies it all. Like a kind of conglomeration of Violent Femmes, Rufus Wainwright and Black Francis.

But if such a level of commercial success is ever to find him, Furman makes a truly great pop star. Recent release ‘Lousy Connection’ is as catchy as they come and even ambles towards swing and bossanova in glimpses.

With the room packed out from front to back, it’s another one of those intimate occasions where logistics prevent a traditional encore, but Furman makes it known that the audience’s hospitality has coerced him into bowing out with a final, very special addition to his set.

Taking on Jackie Wilson’s ‘(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher’ is ambitious to say the least, but if there’s anyone on the indie circuit right now with the confidence, charisma, pizazz and most importantly raw talent to pull it off, Ezra is the man.

Hell, he’s still not had enough. After leaving the stage he soon reappears as the band pipe up for a reprise that is the perfect end to a show that has had pretty much everything. Far Out can’t wait to get its hands on Perpetual Motion People, July 6th on Bella Union.

Patrick Davies

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