The band produced a solid sound with a raw feel. No guitar techs, no strobe lights. The Peter Furler Band was Old School…


JULY 23, 2016

When the heat index is over 100 degrees one of the last things you want to do is to stand in line under a blazing sun – yet that’s exactly what an ever-growing line of people was doing outside the doors of the mercifully air conditioned venue where the Peter Furler Band would be playing in a little over an hour. An hour? Yes – a long hour. If you had to guess what would be going on by looking at the crowd you’d have a pretty hard time. There were young children, there were people that could have conceivably been their grandparents, and everything in-between. There were the hip, the not-so-hip, hipsters, and people with artificial hips – all more than willing to perspire away a few quarts to see what would be happening onstage.

Make no mistake – this was rock and roll. Peter Furler, of course, spent years fronting one of the most successful of all Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) bands ever: Newsboys – and although that iconic band straddled many rock genres, they were essentially an adventurous, often quite creative pop band. The Peter Furler Band is a more threatening, though more streamlined unit. Furler, on guitar and vocals, is backed up by former guitarist and keyboard man for Superchick, Dave Ghazarian and former drummer for Audio Adrenaline and Bleach, Jared Byers. The trio is a powerful, stripped-down rock band that plays without the safety net of pre-recorded back-ups and triggered keyboard effects – it almost seems like the set-list (if there is one) is more like a suggested program, not to be slavishly adhered-to….

Of course, the Newsboys songs are there – but they’re looser, they feel a bit more in touch with the moment, and feel less like it’s youth-group night. Furler’s unmistakable voice is still in excellent form, his guitar playing was solid but not flashy, serving the songs with guts and fury where needed, and his banter between songs was appropriate to the moment (often levelled at the group of kids down front). Ghazarian’s bass playing is strong and melodic – nowhere to hide in a three-piece, the bass lines need to shine and growl and they did both. Byers’ drumming was solid and supplied the thunder to make the trio rock when needed. Together, the band produced a solid sound with a raw feel, yet was sophisticated enough to add depth to some of the evening’s more challenging moments. No guitar techs, no strobe lights… The Peter Furler Band was Old School – free-range rock ‘n roll.

By the end of the show, the band played 19 or 20 songs – a generous set. Furler’s newer songs, from his two excellent solo albums, On Fire and Sun And Shield, were mixed with familiar Newsboys classics like “Something Beautiful,” a reggae treatment of “Shine,” “It’s All right,” and (among others) his personal favorite – the last song on the Take Me To Your Leader album – “Lost The Plot.” Pointing out the relevance of the lyrics, especially these days, he sang:

Sigh. …Let's be blunt.
We're a little distracted. What do You want?                                                                                                                                        

Once we could follow, Now we cannot.
You would not fit our image, So we lost the plot                                                                                                                              

Once we could hear You. Now our senses are shot.
We've forgotten our first love. We have lost the plot.

A surprise for this audience was a moving rendition of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” – a surprise for Peter was being harassed into a few bars of “Breakfast” by a group of children who wouldn’t stop asking for it.  Skillfully balancing fun and poignancy is something that Furler does well, and before ending with the celebratory “I Am Free,” there was a communal sing-along to “Amazing Love,” “It Is You,” and the buoyant “I Am Free.”  

At the end of the concert a line of those same people that earlier found themselves broiling in the sun for over an hour waited on line again – this time to meet the band and to say ‘thank you’ to the man responsible for so many of those songs that we all knew, but maybe didn’t know who it was that wrote them… nah – I guess we all actually did know it was that guy from Australia who was once a Newsboy…  

Words and pictures: Bert Saraco             

For more pictures from this and other concerts go to: