Better than: Dancing in your room to "Love My Way."
For bands whose songs induce nostalgia, past major successes can also limit contemporary relevance. Saturday night's bill at the Culture Room featured a pairing of bands that maintain beloved legacies, but approach life after hits in two very different ways.
For the Psychedelic Furs, a perennial new-wave favorite that lent songs to the soundtracks of some of the most iconic films of the '80s, the night was an opportunity to share an intimate stroll down memory lane. Fans reveled in the band's catalog of beloved classics. For Spacehog, however, the show was an opportunity to reacquaint the audience with a band that has something more to offer beyond its history.
Spacehog donned matching black spacesuits. Its members took the stage to a growing crowd of excitable fans. The group cracked into a number from its most recent release, As It Is on Earth , and the crowd (comprised mostly of people from well within the age group that might have danced to the Furs' then-current hits at their proms) appeared to be immediately enamored with Spacehog's sound.
While the audience was not necessarily its own, Spacehog's more recent fare had fans dancing about and bobbing their heads, no doubt caught in the sway of the '70s glam pomp and unexpected melodies that had made Spacehog such a breath of fresh air in 1995. Frontman Royston Langdon's exuberant croon and thumping bass carried things along as drummer Jonny Cragg hammered away with a Keith Moon-esque fervor over the din of guitarists Richard Steel and Timo Ellis' fuzzed-out and crunching guitars.
Before performing "Zeroes," a track from Spacehog's debut album, Resident Alien, Langdon took a moment to thank the audience and to mention the "slight break" Spacehog had taken for "about 12 years." "Zeros" was met with a hearty cheer and holler, courtesy of the Spacehog diehards in attendance who felt the need to out themselves from the rest of the pack. However, while the old favorite stirred the crowd up, the upbeat strut of the more recent track "Glad to Know" was a breaking point where any holdouts, patiently awaiting the Furs, joined Spacehog in its rock 'n' roll orbit for the duration of the set.
As expected, "In the Meantime" produced the biggest response of the set. Gladly, the boys performed the song with a smile and a laugh. Very different from the awkward chagrin many bands strapped to a megahit appear to take when their song has evolved from art to obligation.
The Psychedelic Furs hit the stage shortly after the Culture Room's David Bowie DVD intermezzo further inundated the audience with even more British-born croonage. The crowd -- which had swelled to a stifling capacity -- broke into dance the minute Mars Williams signaled the start of the set with a raspy blast of soprano sax. The appearance of Richard Butler brought about another loud hurrah from the audience. The singer made his way to the foot of the stage for an exchange of flowing, kind of awkward dancing with crowd.
As the band kicked off the mix of raunchy sax and synths that mark "Heartbeat", the Furs hit a stride. They rose to the scrutiny of the small sea of digital cameras and cell phones audience members held overhead. Richard Butler's voice has weathered the years nicely, evoking all of the lush post-Bowieisms that made the Furs' music so recognizable. Save for Tim Butler's bright-red marching jacket, '80s finery was thankfully absent from the stage.
The romance of numbers like "The Ghost in You" and "Heartbreak Beat" gave couples in attendance something to sway to, while the punk-infused new wave of early tracks like "Soap Commercial" and "Pulse" brought the dancing room to a boil.
Richard Butler perpetually lost buttons on his silk dress shirt as the night carried on, and by the end of the performance, the 57-year-old was completely drenched in sweat and grinning brightly. Tim Butler thumped away calmly on his bass while shouting lyrics back at audience members from his perch overhead, and the newer members that round out the 2013 incarnation of the Furs added a bit of professional fortitude to bolster the band's inimitable sound.
"Love My Way" and the encore performance of "Pretty in Pink" blasted an '80s prom vibe through Culture Room, and audience members relived moments of their youth, bathed in the synth wash of the band's classics. The Furs paid homage to their legacy without becoming the dreaded caricature some of their peers have become.
Personal bias: Fan of both bands on the bill. Firm believer that both are underrated by most.
Overheard: "I need to be close to the bathroom at my age" - Audience member
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