The Fiery Furnaces accomplished an impressive feat Tuesday in
front of a packed crowd at the Blind Pig — they managed to
give the audience everything it wanted to hear, while making the
listeners feel like they’ve never heard it before. The
Furnaces took songs from their 2003 debut Gallowsbird’s
Bark and this year’s critically acclaimed Blueberry
Boat and mixed up the verses, choruses and guitar solos to form
one long medley. The results were brilliant, never yielding a dull
The Fiery Furnaces are led by siblings Matthew and Eleanor
Friedberger. The brother/sister dynamic is a fascinating one,
lending the songs a playful, childlike air. Watching them bicker
over what songs to play during the encore was like being back at
the family dinner table.
Like The White Stripes, The Furnaces do borrow from the blues,
but they’re more in debt to the grandeur of The Who and the
eccentricity of Captain Beefheart. Combining folk and garage rock
influences with simple melodies and rollicking riffs, the songs can
be challenging, but are also rewarding. They never slowed down the
pace — rocking non stop for an hour, only pausing once to fix
a broken drum mic.
Highlights of the set included the jolly “Bow Wow,”
a song about a lost dog, the whimsical “I’m Going to
Run” and the freewheeling “Don’t Dance Her
Down.” The pace was set by the energetic drumming of Andy
Knowles, who even managed to be entertaining when not playing by
miming the lyrics and making faces at Matthew and Eleanor. In the
midst of the sonic chaos surrounding him, Matthew remained stoic,
whether he was pounding out melodies on his Rhodes organ or
unleashing effects-drenched guitar solos.
While Matthew is the creative force behind the music, Eleanor is
undoubtedly the focus of the band. Like a bizarre cross between PJ
Harvey, Patti Smith and Karen Carpenter, she sometimes delivered
the nonsense lyrics with a vacant stare and other times by busting
out robotic dance moves. Her dusky voice lent even the silliest
songs an emotional depth.
Packing most of their catalogue into an hour-long medley lent
The Furnaces cohesiveness not always found on their albums.
Blueberry Boat, while terrific, can be an exhausting listen.
This certainly wasn’t the case Tuesday as they walked off
stage with a packed crowd begging for more.