Some things are just worth the wait. In 1994, Steve Taylor and his band (at the time) performed in Lancaster, PA, and recorded a live album there to be released the following year, titled Liver. While I was an active-yet-budding concert-goer at the time, I was unfamiliar with Steve's music and ended up not attending that show. While, after picking up Liver the following year, I had come to regret that decision, I would go on to miss every other possible opportunity to see Steve perform again (including at Creation East in 2003 and last year)... until now. Twenty years after Steve recorded Liver in Lancaster, PA, he returns with an all-star band as Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil.
Thanks to the wonders of sites like Kickstarter, artists can not only record a quality new album without the support of a record label, but they can fund a tour as well. With a goal of raising $40,000 near the end of 2013 to fund a new studio album (his first in 20 years), Steve Taylor raised an impressive $121,197 before the campaign's end. His band, The Perfect Foil, is made up of none other than acclaimed musician and painter Jimmy Abegg (also known as "Jimmy A"), John Mark Painter from the husband and wife duo Fleming & John, and the frontman/drummer/founding member of the original Newsboys, Peter Furler. And for those unfamiliar with Steve Taylor's solo work, Steve went on to produce hit albums from artists like Sixpence None The Richer (and a little song called "Kiss Me"), Chevelle, LA Symphony, Newsboys and more. And then, of course, there was his 2012 theatrical project as director, Blue Like Jazz.
To make the aptly titled "The Perfect Tour" just that much sweeter, The Perfect Foil adds drummer Peter Furler and his band as the tour opener. In fact, the bands split headlining duties as Peter Furler Band offers up a whopping 16-song set, including selections throughout his tenure with the Newsboys and his two more recent solo albums. Peter's band consists of drummer Jeff Irizarry and former Superchick/Church of Rhythm/AudioA guitarist Dave Ghazarian on bass, while Peter sings and plays guitar. While Newsboys made a name for themselves with their huge shows and big production, Furler intends to get back to the basics with his newest venture, with the band not using any pre-recorded tracks "or any of that rubbish," as he puts it. This means that the band never uses any samples, doesn't have a keyboard player, and performs everything they can as a three-piece completely live. So, for example, when a synth-driven song like "Shine" is demanded from the crowd and Furler obliges, the trio decides to present it as... a reggae song.
Furler opened with "Something Beautiful," a Newsboys staple from their GO release that the current Tait-fronted version of the band still tends to perform live. However, the song just isn't the same without Peter's signature Aussie vocals and it sounded purely delightful this evening. Another Newsboys fan favorite, "Million Pieces" was a treat to hear next, and then Peter talked about how classic the next song was, having been written before some fans were even born, and performed their breakout hit "Not Ashamed" to an ecstatic audience. At this point, Peter Furler Band was beginning to represent the true essence of who the Newsboys were better than the band currently calling themselves "Newsboys" do. It made me (and I'm sure many others in attendance) long for Newsboys golden days. After "Not Ashamed," Furler then shifted gears to their brand new "Peter Furler Band" debut and performed the album's title track, Sun and Shield. Already, the difference between Furler's old Newsboys sets and this more minimalistic approach were practically palpable. It felt much more like a big city late night club show than a typical Newsboys arena performance, and it works. Peter then talked about traveling cross-country in an RV with his wife after leaving Newsboys and then mentioned the new record, leading into another new track, "So High." He then reminisced about playing Creation Festival and then shared a recent story from his time on the Third Day/Skillet spring tour in which he took a dare from Mac Powell to learn to play live a song they heard on the radio. That song was The Police's "Spirits in the Material World," and Furler and his mates proceeded to perform it next. It was a fun cover and a nice surprise, one that was immediately followed by "Dare I Say" from Sun and Shield. Afterwards, Peter admitted to not making a fixed set list and just writing down potential songs to play and just playing what he feels like when the moment comes. With that, the trio played "All In Your Head" from his first solo album, On Fire, and then "Reach," the single from that same project. "Shame," from Sun and Shield, was a nice addition too, and then a real gem came. Peter admitted to not having played the next song live in roughly 17 years, and with that, they launched into Take Me To Your Leader's intense rock ballad "Lost The Plot." It's easily one of the best Newsboys songs with a powerful message, and it made for an incredible moment in the set. (If you haven't heard it, stop reading this and go get it on iTunes!)
"It's Alright," another PFB track, was next, and then Newsboys' "It Is You" made a wonderful worshipful moment. Peter began responding to some shouts from the audience for specific songs and then played an impromptu chorus of "Breakfast," adding with a laugh, "Well, now that we got that out of the way!" People kept shouting more titles, with "Shine" being the resounding request. As Peter tried to decide what action to take, he said with a grin, "This is a little overwhelming!" and a little reluctantly--but graciously--performed "Shine," despite admitting it wasn't on the set list and wasn't meant to be. The guys then offered the aforementioned reggae treatment of the Newsboys hit for the Pennsylvania audience. Finally, the set began to draw to a close with outright worship, first performing "He Reigns" and then closing with the rousing "I Am Free," complete with a special inspiring word from Furler about the power of Jesus.
After a short intermission, Furler returned to the stage, but not as a guitarist, singer or frontman. He sat behind a modest drum kit and was joined by Abegg and Painter (on guitar and bass, respectively). And, after being announced by a fan dressed as Abraham Lincoln, Steve Taylor joined The Perfect Foil in a suit and tie to open with assumedly new songs "Only A Ride" and "Rubberneck," both upbeat, fast rockers. Taylor fan favorite "I Want To Be A Clone" followed and the foursome continued to bring the rock. Taylor jumped, danced and moved in ways few singers half his age can or do. His stage presence is engaging and infectious and it felt like Taylor hadn't missed one beat since taking a break for several years. He paused between songs to reflect on recording Liver in Lancaster two decades earlier, and then performed another fun fan favorite in "The Lament Of Desmond R.G. Underwood-Fredrick IV," much to the audience's excitement. Another new one, "Moonshot," was a nice addition, and then they broke out the quirky and frantic "The Moshing Floor" from Steve's 1993 album Squint. "Standing In Line" followed, and then Abegg donned one of two silly foil hats for the new wave cut "Am I In Sync?" from Taylor's 1984 album Meltdown. They then performed the title cut from that album before Taylor stopped to catch his breath and talked about how the band was selling their own cologne, "Eau de Foil," but sold out early on, leaving only a tester bottle at the merch table. Given Steve's humor and how he was describing the scent of the cologne, I assumed this was all in jest. However, sure enough, at the merch table (which only consisted of a couple shirts and posters), was a lone bottle of Eau de Foil that one could spritz on themselves to their heart's desire! After the quasi-commercial plug for the actual fragrance, Steve announced that the next song was the title cut from their forthcoming Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil album, and performed "Goliath," a slower, funky bass-driven rock track. Taylor then paused again to talk about the "two fathers of Christian music," citing a radio format called easy listening music and... Barry Manilow. And with a dig against radio in general--while excluding local station WJTL since they're playing The Perfect Foil's single--the rock quartet broke into the reggae flavored Squint cut "Easy Listening," changing it up a bit from the album version. Taylor then introduced Abegg's 1970's style "sing-playing" as he mimicked the guitar tones with his vocals while playing, in a very tongue-in-cheek fashion. After "Easy Listening," Taylor quickly shared from his personal experiences about Compassion International and how he and his wife adopted a daughter 9 years ago, and then encouraged the audience to check out Compassion and consider sponsoring a child. He then moved into the softer rock ballad "A Life Preserved" from the Blue Like Jazz soundtrack before returning to some of his classic material with the 1985 fan favorite "On The Fritz." This was a song I hadn't heard until his more modern version on Liver and have always loved it since. Steve Taylor and The Perfect Foil didn't disappoint either, as they performed the song with as much energy and attitude as any other time it's been performed. To close out their set, Taylor offered another incredible tune, the inspiring rock ballad from Squint, "The Finish Line" (complete with an excellent guitar solo from Abegg).
The guys left the stage, leaving a tent full of folks at The Junction Center itching for more music. When the foursome did return, however, Taylor was donning the white color-splashed jacket from his On The Fritz album cover and informed the audience that the town has a noise curfew and the band was exceeding it, so they'd have to end earlier than planned. With that, the guys played the fast and furious "We Don't Need No Colour Code" before slowing it way down for the ballad "Hero." Sadly, the limitations meant that the guys had to cut a total of three songs from the 19-song set list, including "In Layers," "Cash Cow," and a cover of Beyonce's "Single Ladies." After "Hero" finished, Taylor said the band was going to do a special event for the Kickstarter backers who bought "Golden Tickets" and then would hang around the rest of the night for as long as fans would like to hang around. It was gracious of him to be willing to connect with fans despite how late the night was growing (AND this was a Sunday night!).
My first time (finally) seeing Steve Taylor live was worth the wait. Seeing Peter Furler and his band perform once again--and some songs I haven't heard live in over fifteen years--was, too, a real gift. It's a solid tour of great music and performances that are well worth the price of admission. The set lengths are more than generous as well and the ability for fans to get to connect with the bands afterwards is also a nice bonus. I was also impressed and amazed at Taylor's energy. The man seemed to barely break a sweat all night and didn't display any wear on his voice despite such an energetic and sometimes frenetic performance. It's truly mind-blowing. If you have the chance to see this tour this spring, do not pass it up! Taylor is an icon in the Christian music industry and an influence that is sorely missing from most of today's music. A warm welcome back, Steve!-- John DiBiase, 5/8/14
Peter Furler Band Set List|
01. Something Beautiful
02. Million Pieces
03. Not Ashamed
04. Sun and Shield
05. So High
06. Spirits in the Material World
07. Dare I Say
08. All In Your Head
11. Lost The Plot
12. It's Alright
13. It Is You
14. Breakfast (Chorus) / Shine
15. He Reigns
16. I Am Free
Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil Set List
01. Only A Ride
03. I Want To Be A Clone
04. The Lament Of Desmond R.G. Underwood-Fredrick IV
06. The Moshing Floor
07. Standing In
08. Am I In Sync?
11. Easy Listening
12. A Life Preserved
13. On The Fritz
14. The Finish Line
15. We Don't Need No Colour Code
Peter Furler Band
Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil
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