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Five thoughts: The Psychedelic Furs at House of Blues (March 17)

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The Psychedelic Furs perform at the House of Blues in Las Vegas, Nevada, Saturday, Mar. 17, 2018.
Photo: Wade Vandervort

1. There’s no denying that Richard Butler, the pale and sinewy 61-year-old frontman of ‘80s post-punks The Psychedelic Furs, still has it. Donning sunglasses and a blazer (the costume du jour for the entire band), the Brit with the voice of a husky, cigarette-smoking angel crooned his way through a 17-track set not saying a word to the crowd aside from a few passionate thank yous between songs.

2. The Furs have a timeless feel that sets them apart from other bands from their era. On one hand, the Furs were influenced by rock touchstones like Bowie, Dylan and The Velvet Underground, connecting them to a cross-section of fans who also grew up with similar icons, but the Furs also influenced a number of notably famous current bands like The Killers (not to mention that Jawbreaker’s Blake Schwartzenbach sounds eerily similar to Butler). On the cusp of post-punk, pop and alternative, the Furs' have a sound that feels contemporary, no matter when or where you hear them. At least, that much was true of “President Gas,” a song from 1982’s Forever Now, which was originally written about President Ronald Reagan but is just as relevant in the Trump era, with its warnings against authoritarian regimes and government-sanctioned propaganda.

3. Speaking of the Bowie influence, it’s even more apparent in person. Butler has a number of “moves” that he recycled through his set—dancing with his hands on his hips, curtsying and running his finger against his throat at the end of each song as if to signal “cut!” Despite not saying anything during the hour and a half set, Butler (and his band) seemed genuinely excited to be there, giving a polished performance made even more memorable by saxophonist Mars Williams, who injected his smooth solos into nearly every song.

4. The band has spent years playing “Wrong Train” live, but the Blur-esque track—with its haunting guitar riff and swift drum beat—has still never been recorded. That unreleased track led into one of the biggest hits of the night, “Love My Way,” which recently enjoyed some time in the spotlight 36 years after its release due to its appearance in Oscar-nominated film Call Me by Your Name. The Furs' rendition flowed beautifully as Butler pantomimed under the glowing lights, a breeze blowing in his hair ever-so-slightly for an extra-majestic effect.

5. By the end of the set a few bodies had cleared out, and it was their loss. “Heartbreak Beat” and “Heaven” were saved for last before the group returned for a two-song encore of “Dumb Waiters,” which featured Butler’s sing/rap delivery alongside that iconic sax riff, and “Forever Now.” After a round of curtseys, Butler exited the stage as the rest of the Furs stayed to jam together, ending the show on a ferocious high note. It's been more than three decades since the Furs first broke onto the airwaves, but Saturday’s gig made one thing clear—these are songs that last a lifetime.

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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