Handsome Furs @The Brillobox – 8/20/11 – Show Review
Disclaimer: this review will not be objective. The Handsome Furs have been one of my favorite bands for the better part of three years and I have been patiently waiting two years for another chance to see them live after my first attempt was thwarted by a soul-sucking restaurant job in Peter’s Township (hah!) in February of 2009, just two weeks before their sophomore album Face Control was release to the world. Never again, I vowed.
So when I heard Brillobox landed another gig with the Montreal-based group, I moved mountains to ensure my attendance. Basically, Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry (the husband and wife duo behind the Furs’ moniker) make music perfectly tailored to my tastes. Boeckner took the bleary eyed romanticism that framed so many of his most enduring Wolf Parade songs and cranked it up to 11 for the Handsome Furs, writing tracks that sound like Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band if they lived in the Lower West Side in 1978. Meanwhile, Perry’s synth backing has grown from the skeleton crew grooves of 2007’s Plague ParkÂ into anthemic tapestriesÂ of electronic pop on their latest album Sound Kaptial, fueling and perfectly complimenting Bockner’s heart pounding lyricism and swelling, buzzsaw guitars.
The show was sold out but I still managed to weasel my way to the front of the room, far away from the scenesters at Brillobox who seem to come to shows only to swig Straub and attempt to talk at the back bar around the water cooler. Dan and Alexei were already setting up, tuning guitars, plugging in what seemed like an endless endless array of wires and pedals. Soon enough they were out of sight and returning for the true beginning of their set and the crowd was even more receptive than I anticipated, screaming and giving the ovation of their life for the Furs’ to start their first song, which was the Sound Kaptial track one “When I Get Back Home,” a tune that wastes little time before locking into an angular synth groove. Just like that, the room was dancing, and the monitors were holding on for dear life, with small quivers of feedback whispering between Boeckner’s repeated howls of “WHEN I GET BACK!”
The track ended and the crowd went apeshit while it was fairly obvious Brillbox’s sound system bent but did not break. Dan and Alexei were suitably taken back by the rapturous response, saying it has been a while since their last show in Pittsburgh and that they were truly happy to be back. What ensued was a euphoric onslaught of hits that never seemed to wane in energy. Sound Kaptial standouts “Bury Me Standing,” “Memories of the Future” and “What About Us” all made appearances while Face Control’sÂ stunning closer “Radio Kalinigrad” tempered the middle of the set with its infectious Springsteen by way of Suicide vibe. The KaptialÂ tracks exhibited the best of Perry’s massive wall of synths, shaking asses and floor boards while Â “Kalinigrad” provided an amazing display for Boeckner’s guitar and interplay with Perry’s more sparse synth compositions.
The couple continued to profusely thank the crowd between each song, and an anxious young man kept yelling “YOU LOVE PITTSBURGH!” Boeckner laughed, shrugged it off and replied “Even if you keep saying it, it doesn’t make it any less true.” Finally, the one-two punch of “All We Want, Baby, is Everything” and “Repatriated” came near the end of the set and got my endorphins rushing at such high velocities, I honestly couldn’t tell you what tracks they closed with. Everything after those two songs was a blur of dancing, sweat, chill-inducingÂ choruses and guitar wail. I do remember the duo’s encore discussed on stage rather than on the third floor, as they huddled together in the back corner to strategize before kissing briefly and returning to the ravenous crowd. When the show ended, I shelled out 15 bucks for theÂ Plauge ParkÂ LP on vinyl and made my way over to Alexei for some kind words and an amazing autograph. Few bands can turn me into a bumbling fan boy and the Handsome Furs are most definitely one of them. I walked out onto the street, lit a cigarette, smiled, and looked back to Brillo’s second floor.Â I can honestly say that it was my favorite, most engaging show of the year.