Ezra Furman & the Harpoons @ Webster Hall 4/8/2011

I never could quite figure out how Webster Hall had multiple places for people to gather.  I knew there was the main hall, but it was so big that I didn’t think rooms could fit around it.  I was wrong.  There is a sweet little venue called “the Studio” right underneath the giant main area, and I like it even more than its upstairs counterpart.  Ezra Furman rolled through town with his Harpoons last Friday, and the set was raucous and fun as heck.  It was an Ezra show, after all…

The Apache Relay was the first opener, and their sound was kind of folk rocky in the vein of the Delta Spirit and maybe even the Morning Benders.  The band played a very solid set, but the songs weren’t as immediate as ones by their contemporaries.  This isn’t to say they weren’t good, and now that their album made their way to my room I’m sure I’ll become more acquainted with them.  One thing I will say is that the band seemed to have a few too many people in it, and came off more as a collective of musicians than a true ’band.’

Most songs don’t need a violin, keyboard, bells, two guitars, mandolin, bass, drums, and multiple voices playing and yelling at the same time.  That’s a few too many in my book, unless you’re going for an overwhelming ‘in your face’ sound, which I guess the Apache Relay were.  The instrument switching was a novelty and it got old pretty quick, as did the ‘I need to move and look crazy every single instant’ violinist.  It’s one thing to be excited about playing and have energy on stage, but to be constantly moving and jumping around like a fool is incredibly distracting from the experience of hearing the music.  The lead singer did this as well, but was more reserved and, dare I say, professional(?) about it.  I never thought I’d complain about something like this, but it looked more like a cry of attention as a side effect of constant hipster-dom than it did actually playing and enjoying oneself.  But whatever, I’m over it.

Moving on, Tristen was up next.  She’s a folky troubadour in the same vein as all folky troubadours, and might come from an alternate universe where Ani Difranco and Best Coast could produce a child.  She’s a good song writer, but her drum machine broke and the songs lacked a bit of weight when released into an audience that swallowed them up in conversation.  Thank god for her male companion and lead guitarist, because his Buddy Holly-ness was incredibly impressive and honestly mesmerizing.  He had a new phrasing for every chord she played, and the songs profited unbelievably from his tinkering.  She might have been booed off if not for him, and I  spent much more time watching his work than the main attraction herself.  Their set, overall, was a tad long and seemed to get a bit repetitive, which I’m sure a full band would fill out and increase their chances of truly going somewhere.  It worked for the Black Keys, and it would for them too.

Ok, the moment you’ve been waiting for.  Ezra Furman takes the stage to a packed room of eager people about to lose their shit to his awesomeness.  *Cue losing of shit*  The Harpoons are tight as can be, and even better than last year when they went through Philly.  They play off one another, back up their leader, and their guitarist looks like Albert Hammond Jr. a bit too much for comfort.  Ezra ran through a set of pretty much hits, and there wasn’t a dud in the bunch.  His new album is another winner, though there isn’t anything as immediately explosive as his last few discs.  Standouts were “We Should Fight,” “Mother’s Day,” and “Take Of Your Sunglasses.”

I must say that there really is something weird about watching Ezra.  He’s in this Bob Dylan mold of performing that has him either acting or truly being consistently awkward and interesting.  His banter is entertaining and makes you really ponder how his brain works, and his lyrics do nothing but add to the effect.  He won’t shy away from any taboo topic, though women and love are usually the most covered in his repertoire.  Emotions jump throughout the songs, and run from jubilation to broken heartedness within seconds.  In the end its folk rock with rarely a message, but always a feeling.  That’s why Ezra is so gifted at what he does, and it leads me to believe he’ll be around for quite some time.  Unless he goes crazy, that is…

Ezra Furman & the Harpoons – Mysterious Power

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One response to “Ezra Furman & the Harpoons @ Webster Hall 4/8/2011

  1. Pingback: Racecar Spacecar’s Top 50 Albums of 2011 | racecar spacecar

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