QMU welcomes provocative punk prince Ezra Fuhrman to the stage as he performs an “era-defining” gig.
Riding the wave of his incredible 2019 album, the performer taking centre stage at QMU is a far-cry from the frontman of Ezra Furman and the Harpoons fans were introduced to almost 15 years ago. Demonstrating significant growth in confidence, experience, and ability, Twelve Nudes stands as Furman’s fifth studio record sans the Harpoons. It marked a turn to shorter, louder and far more abrasive song-writing, with the 11-track LP totalling just a little under half an hour. QMU plays host for the first show of Furman’s Twelve Nudes UK tour, seeing the politically charged tunes performed across the similarly charged nation. Support is given by rising-star punk four-piece Pom Poko, whose almost saccharine-sweet rock sound fits Furman’s show to a tee. Hailing from Norway, their set is compiled mostly from their full-length debut from this year, Birthday, as well as one or two scattered singles such as Leg Day.
As Pom Poko disappears backstage, the crowd needn’t wait long before Ezra makes his awaited entrance. Adorned with a face of makeup, floral shirt and pearl necklace, the crowd welcomes him back to Glasgow with love as the show opens with the breath-taking Suck the Blood from my Wound, the running-away anthem which opened the seminal 2018 LP Transangelic Exodus. Alongside the despairing passion in his voice, Ezra’s punk-rock energy is infectious, and the buzz carries through to the first new track of the set, Calm Down aka I Shouldn’t be Alone. A far angrier and shorter cut, setting the tone for the album it opens, the powerful drumming, heavy guitar and strained vocals set QMU ablaze. Rated R Crusaders rounds out the opening burst of energy, a short-but-sweet two-minute explosion quintessential of the Twelve Nudes era.
Slowing the pace down somewhat, Ezra reached into his deceptively deep back-catalogue with Haunted Head, a gentler cut from 2015’s Perpetual Motion People. Following this with fantastic renditions of Trauma and My Teeth Hurt is a little jarring – but while the setlist may be somewhat chaotic, the performances are hitting the mark every time.
A personal favourite, the gorgeous Psalm 151 showcases the impressive range of Furman’s vocals and song-writing, as the soft singing over melancholic guitar chords have an ethereal quality rare in his discography. Shades of this style creep up again with the desperate longing of I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend, with the relatively lighter instrumentals reinvigorated with Twelve Nudes era abrasive vocals. Fan-favourite My Zero is next, the only outing for 2013’s Day of the Dog LP, and the crowd lap up every moment, from the staple indie-rock acoustic guitar opening to the discordant saxophone climax. One of the few of Ezra’s 2019 tracks that breach the three-minute mark, Transition from Nowhere to Nowhere is one of the most powerful moments of the gig, climaxing with the iconic scream into the mic preceding the fantastic instrumental breakdown.
Nearing the end of the main set, Furman delivers two of his best-loved tracks in Driving Down to L.A. and especially Love You So Bad. Both have the crowd echoing Ezra’s every word at deafening volume, and the band onstage seem to pump the passion up to 11. While it would have been easy to end on a pair of back-to-back favourites, the final two tracks of the main set both appear on Twelve Nudes, namely Evening Prayer and Thermometer, marking Ezra’s musical, artist and personal evolution from his work on Transangelic Exodus.
After a short break, the band returns for the encore – a trilogy of politically charged tunes including an unreleased song from earlier this year named On Your Own, and a heart-racing electrifying cover of rather niche 60s rock outlet The Equals with Police on my Back. Before performing Twelve Nudes closer What Can You Do But Rock ‘n’ Roll, Furman reiterates his message throughout the concert, calling the audience to "get political" and rallying them to take a stand.
Ezra Furman’s mantra throughout this era-defining gig has been one of anger and bitter frustration against a unwaveringly destitute set of circumstances. But behind them is a message of hope – a call-to-arms of sorts – that change is possible: and when the music’s this good, you almost believe it.