Montreal’s Handsome Furs have been steadily moving towards a more synth-based sound as their catalog has progressed, but with 2011’s Sound Kapital, the husband-wife duo of Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade) and Alexei Perry have ditched their guitars and gone full keyboard. Kapital is as pop as it is industrial, a callback to the 80’s, heyday of cheesy synths and yearning lyricism, the latter element Boeckner has already mastered. It’s his vocal presence that dominates the songs of the Furs, even as the electronics cut and jab like melodic knives under your skin. The sincerity of his mournful, often weary lyrics push the band beyond simple electro-pop, into the realm of a pair of lonely misanthropes with no one to rely on but each other. This edge lends the Furs a nearly depressing quality, but it’s doubtful their live performances will be able to contain that nuance – rather, the frustration and discontentment will burst out and into the crowd in the form of a massive dance party. After all, the duo will light up the Main Stage at 6:00, the perfect place to unleash a scourge of pulse-pounding beats and skin-tingling synth arpeggios.
After a somewhat lengthy wait during which Dan Boeckner nonchalantly commented “so awkward,” Handsome Furs played a four-song set consisting of the middle section of their brand new 3rd studio LP, Sound Kapital. They sounded great, crisp clean nearly reverb-less vocals led by Boeckner paired with bright synth and driving beats. Both were delightfully entertaining to watch live, Boeckner all intensity, veins popping out of his neck, enthusiastically singing the often repetitive yet powerful lyrical phrases such as “I feel alone, but I feel alright” at the end of their opening song “Memories of the Future.” Perry’s movements were rigid, sporadically swaying back and forth sometimes on one leg, often emphatically stomping her right foot to the beat.
The most appropriate adjective describing this mini-set is certainly intimate. During the third song, Boeckner descended into the audience, at first watching his wife with a seemingly new-found passion; in a way, it was touching, cute and genuine – not a frequent occurrence to watch a husband-wife duo admiring each other, in love. Boeckner proceeded to hug individual audience members as he sang “break my heart” over and over again. This type of sincere intimacy, like the lyrical power of Furs tunes, leaves a lasting positive impression.