Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Concert review: Psychedelic Furs, The Church, The Fixx in Costa Mesa, Calif.

photo: Bill Alkofer/OC Register
Watching live music is a good way to take your mind off all the violence and political turmoil around the world lately. That point was driven home by Cy Curnin during the Fixx’s tight O.C. performance.

Sunday night, many concertgoers at the Pacific Amphitheatre partied heartily and relived old school days while listening to classic alt-rock tunes from the ’80s and early ’90s. Former KROQ (and current Sirius XM/JACK FM) DJ Richard Blade made the pre-show proceedings equally fun.

David Bowie’s “Warszawa” served as haunting entrance music for Psych Furs’ 70-minute headlining set, which started with a frantic “India” – the first cut from the group’s 1980 self-titled debut LP. A muddled sound mix left Mars Williams’ squawking sax and Rich Good’s careening guitar work practically inaudible.

Affable singer Richard Butler (pictured above) took awhile to warm up, so his gargling glass-styled lower range was more abrasive than usual. “President Gas” – originally a subtle swipe at Ronald Reagan – felt totally relevant amid a highly divisive election year. Here though, its power was diluted while the kinks were still being ironed out.

The bespectacled Butler, 60, was a bundle of energy: he moved all across the stage, did his trademark spinning in a circle move (especially during a billowy “Heaven”) a few times, shook fans’ hands, playfully leaned on fellow musicians and pogo-ed until the drummer counted songs in.

photo: Bill Alkofer/OC Register
A sublime “Like a Stranger” saw Williams skillfully move between sax and French horn. It was an early standout. The same held true for another “Mirror Moves” album selection, “The Ghost in You.” Butler clutched a rose as his dramatic vocals and Amanda Kramer’s airy synths simultaneously soared.

Gloriously melodic ballad “Angels Don’t Cry” (featuring yet another fierce Williams solo) and the jaunty “Heartbreak Beat” got fans excited. For the encores, the gently churning “Until She Comes” received a surprisingly subdued response, considering the song topped the modern rock radio chart in ’91. The energy level rose considerably for spirited finale “Pretty in Pink.”

Since the Church has been playing its latest album “Further Deeper” and 1982’s “The Blurred Crusade” while on tour, I thought a jangly single from the latter was a shoo-in for Costa Mesa.

photo: Bill Alkofer/OC Register
Instead, the Aussie band opted for the album’s intense epic “You Took.” Their 45-minute allotment encompassed half a dozen expansive selections. On rocking opener “Tantalized,” Peter Koppes and Ian Haug tore through some freak-out guitar work.

For the American hits “Metropolis, frontman Steve Kilbey did a few leg kicks and often played bass low to the ground. The crowd stood to sing along with mild-mannered Kilbey’s wispy vocals amid “Under the Milky Way, while a scintillating “Reptile” saw former Powderfinger member Haug do some mightily impressive fretwork.

The Fixx – the only act on the bill with its classic lineup intact – launched an economical, far-too-brief half hour performance with a spacey “Red Skies” and sounded better than ever. Curnin, possibly referencing the Louisiana police shooting earlier that morning, was a reassuring presence. He said, “In here, we have no problems” before a striking “Are We Ourselves?”

photo: Bill Alkofer/OC Register
Afterward, Curnin prefaced the slinky “Secret Separation” by noting that “we could all really use the love right now. Keep the faith. You know you can” and did a bird-flying-away gesture (which reminded me of something Simon Le Bon also does onstage during "Ordinary World") at the conclusion.

Standouts included the icy new wave drama of “Stand or Fall,” a clanking “One Thing Leads to Another” and “Deeper & Deeper” (both propelled by Jamie West-Oram’s grooving guitar sounds).

Upcoming shows:
Psychedelic Furs
7/21 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 
7/22 Catalyst, Santa Cruz, CA (with The Church)
7/23 UC Theatre, Berkeley, CA (with The Church)
The Fixx
8/14 Embarcadero Marina Park, San Diego, CA (with The B-52's)
8/16 The Roxy, West Hollywood, CA

My review originally appeared at

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