Ezra pounds library crowd with punchy R & B

Ezra Furman performs at Lancaster Library.
Ezra Furman performs at Lancaster Library.

Ezra Furman displayed little reverence for his bookish surroundings, proclaiming just two songs in: “This ain’t no library no more – you don’t have to be quiet, you’ve been quiet all day.”

And the magnificent racket made by this unorthodox frontman from Chicago was duly greeted by a justifiably fervent response from the packed floor.

Furman has sprung to prominence only this year in the UK, thanks partly to frequent plays by Marc Riley on BBC 6 Music and glowing reviews of his latest LP.

He cuts a quirky figure on stage in a floral peaked hat, lipstick and leather jacket. But we soon warmed to his slightly awkward, nervy-sounding mumblings between songs.

At their loudest, on songs like At The Bottom of the Ocean, he and his band pack a really noisy punch. Old-fashioned, 60s style R&B, delivered by three guitarists, including Furman himself, is given an extra dimension by a saxophonist.

The slower numbers – like album title track, Day of the Dog – work too, with Furman’s often angry sounding vocal giving way to a vulnerable Neil Young-esque drawl.

There are songs of both hope and despair, and bluesy new number Watch You Go By, “a song about being drunk” – and evidently not just after a heavy night on the town – is one example of Furman’s darker side.

An unexpected cover of Madonna’s Like A Virgin is a surprise highlight, but it is recent single My Zero, apparently about running away from home, which really brings the house down.

This was another real coup for Lancaster Library. And while there should always be a time for books, tonight certainly wasn’t it.