End Of The Road 2023 closes in style with the final Ezra Furman live show

An emotional ending from the rockstar we need and, if we’re being generous to ourselves, the one we deserve

If you’re like me and tomorrow you’re getting the 8am train back to Brighton and want enough sleep to feel half-human, then Ezra Furman’s headline set on the Garden stage is your last hurrah of End Of The Road. What I didn’t realise going in, is that it’s Furman’s last show, too – maybe forever. “I’m smiling cos I like this,” she says mid-set. Aw, that’s nice, we think, but then a wave of shared looks spreads through the crowd as she explains that, after 11 and a half years as a band, and due to “circumstances of life, we don’t have any more shows planned after this. We don’t know when we’ll come back.” Her voice breaks with emotion. She’s practically crying. Then she is crying. “There’s no plan but this.” And so they make this count.

We can speculate the reason behind Furman’s hiatus – she’s a transgender woman and has spoken about the challenges of touring, some related to her identity, some not – but the setlist does that for us. During the guitar solo of genderfluid paean ‘Body Was Made,’ her black-and-white Telecaster threatens to catch on fire. A screeching, squawking, tremolo-picked homage to the Velvet Underground’s noisiest offerings, the strings articulate words just beyond reach. 

‘Dressed in Black’ from the 2022 album All Of Us Flames is equally stirring, “one of those destroy-the-world teenage love songs,” as she introduces it, and indeed the song – every song in the set – outlines some kind of philosophy or approach to adversity, the kind that changes lives in incremental ways. And that was Furman’s goal all along, as the very American but very informative (and humorous) monologues confirm: “These are songs of love and war; this one’s more war,” she says of track two. ‘Love You So Bad’ is “a failed love affair in three chords.” Another song is “about going shopping in hell.” 

Furman speaks, sounds, looks, and commands like a rockstar, darting across the stage in a skin-tight, skin-coloured dress, screaming into the mic, passion but also actual fear – and actual tears – driving every word. Rumour has it that for some dates on this UK tour she’s had a sofa onstage in case she needs a rest. This Ezra is worlds away. Her band is excellent, too, a dependable foil that keeps out of her way but has the faculty to make these songs fill the sky. 

For all the wonder of her original songs, the most uproarious response from the crowd is during a cover of Patti Smith’s ‘Gloria,’ a clear reference point – both lyrically and sonically – for Furman’s work, and an appropriate addition to this special show. “People say beware, but I don’t care / The words are just rules and regulations to me,” she cries along with everyone else over explosive open chords. An older woman to my left, dancing and waving her arms, is particularly happy. A man to my right cradles his toddler with one arm and sips a beer from the other hand. It makes me think about the universality of Furman’s messaging, how music brings us together. She is truly the rockstar we need and, if we’re being generous to ourselves, the one we deserve.

Before the final song, she asks us what happens when something tries to hold you back. “It creates friction. And what does friction create?” she asks. “Sparks. And what do sparks create? Electricity. And what does electricity create, students..?” She pauses. Someone next to me shrugs and suggests “Power?” He’s wrong. The answer is rock and roll.

Photography by Rachel Juarez-Carr