It’s hard to quantify the enormity of the influence and role Peter Murphy and Bauhaus hold in the Goth subculture. I’d liken it to maybe Bowie’s role in glam rock but with far more collective eye-rolling. Still- it’s hard to deny I was anything less than utterly starstruck from the second I saw Murphy in the wings off stage with only the safety lights illuminating him. David J enters stage right approximately 3 seconds later, basically sliding in to scene and absolutely shredding it in a way I’ve never seen accomplished on bass. Out struts the frontman himself: donned in black leather covered in sequins and with gold dust brushed on his face highlighting those classic cheekbones it’s again hard to deny the Bowie connection. But this is all Peter Murphy, and he’s about to make sure you don’t forget it.
The sheer weight of Peter’s stage persona is so heavy it’s hard to look away for even a second. I’ve heard this discussed about him again and again but to live through it is another matter. It’s potent and for a second i’m in the shoes of another 23 year old seeing Bauhaus perform for the first time in 1980 and feeling the weight of what would become the goth sound before it looked anything like it does today. It’s electrifying and I loved every second of it.
There’s lights, there’s fog, there’s Peter Murphy stood up behind his drummer, eyes locked on the crowd wailing his way through Double Dare like a man less than half his age, and all I can think of is my friend telling me earlier that night what he thought when he saw Murphy live in Leipzig: “Fuck, he’s SO cool.” Yeah, no kidding.
In their 60’s, you sometimes worry your favorite rock stars will be a shade of what you hold up in your mind as these larger than life figures. But Peter Murphy’s voice is rock solid and he hits every note and effect perfectly. In fact it’s so spot on it gives you a second of pause to really sink in how raw the vocals are on the studio recordings, especially the earlier albums. Bravo indeed when Peter is screaming ‘undead, undead, undead’ and I literally feel like I could close my eyes and I’d be 14 again and listening to it for the first time in front of my moms old crappy desktop, having absolutely no one to share with how monumental it all felt at the time. Obviously, it’s a bit cliche to focus on the opus that is Bela Lugosi’s Dead but it’s an obvious crucial starting place for lot’s of newcomers and to get to hear it not only performed live but from half of Bauhaus themselves was a bucket list item I’m beyond pleased to have crossed off.
The second half of the show was a bit dreadful to be honest with sound malfunctions. For quite awhile there was ear piercing feedback about every 30 seconds and David J himself was angrily gesturing at all the sound techs to get it together. Unfortunately the sound quality never really recovered.
And for a character like Peter Murphy who’s essentially legendary at this point for throwing fits on-stage and even bottles off-stage, it was honestly hard to see that man in the show I just watched. The most intense he got was some rather aggressive hand flapping at some clueless stagehands that didn’t vacate quickly enough after an incident and some looks that clearly spelled out ‘get the fuck off-stage’ pretty intensely, but never once did he pause in his performance. This is a man who spent the first song and a half of his performance specifically directing the sound booth on how to fine tune his vocals with hand gestures alone. He clearly cares about his craft and performance, and I wonder how much of his reputation is overblown from a perfectionist coming to blows with venues and non-crew who are causing issues with bringing his vision to fruition. Obviously, this can’t account for Murphy’s entire reputation but every time I was sure ‘this is it’ and even the crowd was cringing and annoyed, Peter managed to keep his cool, so I think I’ll be reserving further judgement.
For anyone reading this because they heard there was a graphic fight at the show I can briefly say there was no such thing and I’m assuming people are so desperate for Peter Murphy’s shows to live up to the drama filled hype that the rumor just got tossed around desperately. What did happen is that a large man, presumably drunk, bum-rushed the stage and knocked quite a few people over and, after a failed attempt from the crowd to hold him back, he wormed his pathetic way on stage only to be immediately dragged off. I was about two feet away and almost got knocked over, so I’m fairly certain of the details here. About 40 seconds later another man leaped on stage and ran about before stage diving. It was all underwhelming and mostly annoying for the band and crowd alike, but the worst tragedy was that it had to happen during Stigmata Martyr,
The show wasn’t perfect. The sound wasn’t fantastic for almost the entire second half and the band’s frustration was obvious and a bit contagious unfortunately. But every aspect of the night Peter, David, and their bandmates brought was amazingly well executed. Peter is a powerhouse and David J still plays bass in a way that makes me sit up and listen. If you’re like me and never thought you’d have the chance at a full American tour to see Bauhaus in concert I cannot stress how much I encourage you to get tickets if the tour is coming near you. For a guy that’s been doing this for 40 years, you’ll definitely feel like you’re getting at least a taste of an early goth show.
For more information on Peter Murphy and the current Ruby Anniversary Tour visit http://www.petermurphy.info/ and http://www.petermurphy.info/dates for tickets and news alike.
You can find Laz on Instagram @battrashfever .
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