While the 45-year-old club they were supposed to play is on the mend, the Psychedelic Furs and the Church proved they, too, have withstood many decades and several makeovers Tuesday night as their twofer tour rolled into a rather regal choice of a backup venue, the historic State Theatre.
The Furs especially came off as sturdy as ever. Their current lineup is split between three heyday-era members and three younger replacements, but the new kids – including former Joanna Newsom bandmate Rich Good -- have been with the London gloom-pop pioneers for most of this decade and sounded well-greased during Tuesday’s 90-minute set.
Singer Richard Butler, 59, turned extra active and animated given the larger stage and theatrical setting offered at the State. He strutted and sashayed like David Bowie’s kid brother in the opening tune “Heartbeat” and sidled up to his real brother, bassist Tim Butler, for some playful rock-starry gestures in a nailed-tight rendering of the second song “Mr. Jones.” Richard’s voice didn’t quite hold up to the rigors of “Highwire Days” and a few other upper-range songs but was otherwise strong, with the dramatic ‘80s deep cut “Wrong Train” especially showing he’s still adept at mustering some wonderfully woeful melodies.
Richard sounded a bit bummed about having to change venues, too. “We were happy to be booked at First Avenue again,” he said. “We love that place. But this is good, too.”
The State did indeed work out as well as a backup site again, following the well-received Miguel concert two weekends ago. Its ornate features suited both bands’ elegant ambience. A little more dancing might’ve occurred at First Ave during the Furs’ big-haired hits “Heartbreak Beat” and “Pretty in Pink,” but the not-so-spring-chicken-y crowd seemed just as happy having the option to sit down during “Until She Comes” and a couple other dullards played.
There was a lot more sitting going on during the Church’s opening set, not so much a sign of the band’s worth but a reflection of the songs selected for what turned to be only a 50-minute set.
Unlike the Furs – whose last new record came out long enough ago this writer owns it on cassette – the Church has a new album to tout. Thus, precious time was spent unfolding lengthy, lofty, headphones-ready new tunes such as “Toy Head” and “Miami.” Only the most requisite fan faves were peppered in, including “Reptile” and “Metropolis” early on and “Under the Milky Way” toward the end.
The Sydney-reared atmospheric rockers are touring without guitarist Marty Wilson-Piper this time out -- a big absence – but frontman Steve Kilbey and fellow co-founding guitarist Steve Koppes propped up their trademark sound well without him. They’ve maintained their sense of humor, too. Roadies came out and started tearing down the band’s gear while Kilbey and Co. were still playing the crescendoing finish of the final song “Miami.”
The joke was on them being an opening act again, 35 years into their career. But like First Ave itself (set to return Friday), it’s nice just to have both these bands still open for business.