Ezra Furman & The Harpoons at Subterranean

April 28th, 2011: As seen on Time Out Chicago (PDF)

“This is why I don’t like to play shows to 17-year olds,” wryly rambled folk punkster Ezra Furman Sat night (April 23rd) at SubT, half staring into lost crowd space, half at his shoes. Furman was backhanding a comment about the frantic energy in the venue, something of which he later assured us is not standard for the Evanston-based singer/songwriter. He and his band, The Harpoons, platformed the evening around the early April release of their third full-length effort, Mysterious Power.

To say that the twenty-something chases a Dylanesque dragon is not a thing of blasphemy—”Your dreams never follow the chronology of history,” he nasally lofts into something charmingly his own on ’07’s “Banging Down The Doors” in the voice of Moses, “And the purpose of dreams is still quite a mystery.”

The irony of that 17-year old comment is that most of the crowd was silly drunk by the time Furman and crew took the stage, stumbling and shouting stupidities like “Ayatollah Rockarollah” and “Lou Reed.”  Also, Furman was wearing a prom invitation in the form of a t-shirt that an underage fan implored him to don. No word if Rebecca McDonald said yes or not.

All of this created a fine third coming, regardless, the band twisting the unbridled energy like some Force move, stomping heels on new cuts “Bloodsucking Whore,” screaming the “I can’t tell what I am gonna do next” chorus of Pogues-ish “Teenage Wasteland” in wide smile. Furman’s quip was apt about the show being an irregularity–the dudes are not Ezra Furman & The Harpoons anymore. They are The Harpoons featuring Ezra Furman.

Even on magnum opus single, “Take Off Your Sunglasses” (Furman’s veritable “Subterranean Homesick Blues”) the harp-wielding singer/songwriter showed an infinite amount of new confidence, freeversing that bit about not needing to think about things in the middle of the night and everybody being unworthy, street-preaching a cadence all his own. But it wouldn’t have been anything without the punch and yelp reminder of his bandmates to take off those damn shades.

There’s a sentiment in a recent interview in the Sun-Times about how Furman, now 25, looks up to an evangelical protégée of a Michigan-based singer/songwriter, Paul Baribeau, who “mostly just plays acoustic guitar and screams.”  And Furman did close things by his lonesome with “Don’t Turn Your Back on Love,” hammering home his folkie foundation, pleading “How could I forget you” in the end.  Though anyone not aping drunken non-sequiturs in attendance that night, witnessed his band taking him to the gate.

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