Ezra Furman is a captivator: he's catchy pop, he's punk rebellion, he's rock and roll, he's a whirlwind of lipstick-fuelled frenzy.
Ezra's energetic rollercoaster performance of cultural fight songs, honest pain exposés and much-loved pop hooks got the crowd hot and loud last night. It was, however, a Monday night, and whether it was Ezra or us, it did take good few songs before the gig really hit its stride.
The turning point was a slowed-down, bluesy version of 'And Maybe God is a Train': cathartic, raw and sweeping. From there we veered into music-hall style 'Pot Holes', a sharp look at America's ability to turn a blind eye to its race problem, down to the dark suicidal story, 'Ordinary Life' and heart wrenching cries for help of 'Can I Sleep in Your Brain'.
Ezra's Boy-Friends (his band) flipped the 60s, female backing-singers motif on its head, tripping though low, rumbling dip-di-dips and bow-wows as Ezra roughened the sound with his scratchy fast-tonged vocals. And instrumentally, Tim Sandusky, the saxophonist, really brought the sound alive with some scorching licks.
As Ezra swung his pearls, grasped at his pink shirt and twirled his little grey skirt he presented a vibrant juxtaposition of strength and vulnerability that perfectly mirrored his songs. This core of the set was great – spiraling you up then enveloping you in a dark honesty, reflective of the ups and downs of depression and manic creativity.
A lot of people say Ezra Furman is the poster-child for outsiders, but if you know anything about Bowie, Lou Reed, Green Day's 'King for a Day' Billie Joe Armstrong or indeed Tim Curry – that sweet transvestite from transsexual, Transylvania – then Ezra is simply the natural heir to a rich lineage of gender-bending rock and roll.
That's not to say his 'Wobbly' (as his impossible-not-to-dance-to song terms it) appearance and sexuality isn't important; it is. And it's a relief that this wonderful kind of transgression is still alive and well and making music that fights for the right to say queer is ok.
But Ezra Furman is unquestionably derivative – acceptably and laudably so; and so is his music. He and his Boy-Friends are doo-wop, 60s, blues, Violent Femmes-y, Velvet Underground-esque pop artists; and they're good at it. That's the thing though – while it didn't necessarily feel like something new at the Academy last night, it did feel fresh, exciting and absolutely necessary.