Peter Murphy @ Webster Hall

Peter Murphy

Webster Hall

May 7, 2013

MANHATTAN, NY—The godfather of gothic rock made the unlucky 13th stop on his tour of the East Coast, with eight more North American cities to go before heading overseas for another 20 dates in Europe and then returning to the States to perform at 12 West Coast venues. The theme was to perform mostly Bauhaus material with a few other songs thrown in for variety, thus the title, Mr. Moonlight Tour. Bauhaus broke up in 1983, splitting into Peter Murphy, solo vocalist, and Love & Rockets, composed of all the other members. Certain remarks PM has made over the years suggests that he considers his ongoing solo project to represent the continuation of Bauhaus. Most would agree that L & R have spun further off from the original style than Murphy has.

Rare reunion tours occurred in 1998 and 2006, and Bauhaus even reunited to produce a proclaimed “final” album, Go Away White, in 2008. The reunion performances with the full complement of Bauhaus original musicians have been rightly acclaimed to be spectacular. This tour, however, follows a different plan, with Murphy being the only representative from the original band backed now by studio accompanists. That arrangement seems to have fallen short of the standard set by the original lineup.

Black leather-clad PM came on stage and the show opened with the pounding, morose sound of “King Volcano,” then the more melodious “Kingdom’s Coming” and then back to the pounding beats of “Double Dare.” Next, he went into “In The Flat Field,” the melody of which is recognizable to fans of his solo work, wherein it is resurrected as “The Line Between The Devil’s Teeth.”

The intense pastel lighting in concentrated hues of magenta, indigo and lime combined with heavy stage fog, making the musicians appear as ghostly silhouettes much of the time. Sometimes the lights went down altogether, and PM lurked with a very bright diode flashlight in hand from the bassist to the guitarist to his own face, dramatically highlighting and distorting their features with stark white light and deep bizarre shadows.

After “Silent Hedges” and “Kick In The Eye” came “Adrenalin,” the one entry from Go Away White. The morbid, funereal “Three Shadows” followed, in which he repeats the mantra that he—and we—“will always exist.”

Midway through the set they performed the undisputed number one all time gothic rock favorite, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” followed by “The Passion Of Lovers,” “She’s In Parties” and “Stigmata Martyr.”

Poor audio quality and painful feedback detracted further from what was already a mediocre delivery. Many of these songs bore little resemblance to the original Bauhaus favorites owing to an overly bombastic instrumental accompaniment that drowned out the melodies and overwhelmed Murphy’s obviously underperforming vocals. Whether it was allergies, a cold or fatigue, his voice was hoarse and weak, although intermittently redeemed by his sheer courage and supreme effort. Despite not feeling well and the announcement of the passing of his mother-in-law earlier the same day, Murphy held little back as he performed his unique and signature gothic ballet on stage, bowing low, flapping his arms as if some kind of soaring bird of prey or prancing around with one hand on hip and elbow jutting provocatively.

Covering the melodious Dead Can Dance song “Severance” provided a welcome relief from the relentlessly discordant, jagged and ear-splitting Bauhaus repertoire which we all love, but from which we can nonetheless benefit by taking a break. After a chaotic rendering of “Burning From The Inside,” they took a momentary intermission, then promptly returned to finish off with two covers that the Bauhaus have made their own: T. Rex’s “Telegram Sam” and Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust.”

While this was not the best performance ever of either Peter Murphy or the Bauhaus oeuvre, it stands as a heroic recapitulation of one of the cornerstones of our musical and cultural era, a celebration and a statement of the gothic and the punk underground subculture that arose in the early ‘80s and overturned all the rules of rhythm and melody and, by extension, of style, fashion and even behavior that are so discussed, analyzed and dissected today.

—by , June 12, 2013


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