- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Though they’ve ditched the mullets, long coats and leather trousers they donned during the garish 1980s, the Psychedelic Furs are still touring, recording and generally rocking out.

The English post-punk group popped onto the scene nearly 30 years ago and subsequently endured a roller-coaster career ride. First, they shot up the charts with albums like 1981’s “Talk Talk Talk” and 1984’s “Mirror Moves.” Then, their tune “Pretty in Pink” landed not-so-subtly in a classic John Hughes film of the same name.

To outsiders, the Furs seemed poised to take the mainstream by storm. However, with the song’s success came unexpected side effects.

“At the time, we thought [the movie] was a great thing,” says bassist Tim Butler. “We were attracting bigger audiences and we’d have all kinds of girls in the front row at our shows. But it alienated our core audience. … They thought we’d sold out. After the next album [“Midnight to Midnight”] came out, we were pretty depressed and wanted to give it all up because we had totally gone off-track.”

Two records later, the band split, taking a 10-year hiatus.

In 2000, three core Furs members reunited: Mr. Butler, his brother and Furs frontman Richard, and guitarist John Ashton. They rounded out their lineup with Love Spit Love drummer Frank Ferrer and World Party keyboardist Amanda Kramer.

Gone is the pressure to produce constantly, hit sales goals or fit in a musical box. “We don’t have any deadlines, we don’t want to come head-to-head with the next big thing,” Tim Butler explains. “We just do it at our own speed.”

The Psychedelic Furs perform Sunday night, New Year’s Eve, at the State Theatre in Falls Church (www.thestatetheatre.com). Doors open at 7 p.m.; the show begins at 9 p.m.

Soul life

Funked-out jazz trio Soulive is sometimes called the “Funk Brothers of the 21st century.” And it’s true that, like the famous Motown house band, the group produced heaps of seriously groovy tunes and collaborated with some of the country’s brightest, most soulful talent.

But drummer Alan Evans brushes off the comparison.

“I just want to be Soulive,” the musician says.

Since 1999, that has meant Mr. Evans on the skins, his brother Neal on the Hammond B-3, buddy Eric Krasno on the guitar and a slightly rotating cast of trumpet and sax players all churning out rich, mostly instrumental tunes — a blend of horn-heavy bebop and Curtis Mayfield-style funk with a big, bouncin’ hip-hop vibe spray-painted on top.

Over the years, the band has tweaked and tinkered with its formula, label-hopping from Velour to Blue Note and now to Concord. They’ve reined in their extended jams a bit, and have started to weave in more guest vocalists (including Dave Matthews, Chaka Khan and Talib Kweli, to name a few).

Soulive’s small shifts have culminated in an ever-expanding listener base and high-profile gigs opening for such major acts as the Rolling Stones and the Roots. And it hasn’t hurt their popularity any that their live show ratchets up the funk fever by about 200 percent.

The guys have been so busy that they’ve started to lose track of time. “A lot of times, we don’t know what day it is,” Alan Evans says, adding that sometimes they even space out on holidays until someone informs them of the occasion.

“It’s strange; so much of our lives are planned out ahead of time,” he explains. Obviously everyone makes plans to go on vacation and do work-related things a few months in advance, “but for us, it’s different. It’s like, ‘Next spring, we’re gonna be doing this tour.’ Then, wow! I can see my whole year and a half ahead already scheduled for me. And all of a sudden, you’re at that show looking back like, ‘What happened?’”

Alan Evans is grateful for Soulive’s success and, indirectly, the demands that have come with it. Yet, he’s grown to appreciate downtime much more.

While the band will be spending this New Year’s Eve with Washingtonians at the 9:30 Club (the second in a two-night engagement at the venue), Mr. Evans claims that last year was one of his favorite New Year’s Eve celebrations to date: “I was at home, and I was asleep at 11:30. I was fighting [sleep] and woke up the next day and it was the new year.”

Not to worry, though. He and his crew got a much-needed breather before the holidays and should be ready to rock in New Year’s just right. They’ll even sneak in some material from their next album, due out in late spring or summer. Toussaint, a singer who collaborated on the record, also will be performing with Soulive.

The group co-headlines with the Greyboy Allstars at the 9:30 Club Saturday and Sunday. Doors open at 8 both nights.

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