Another trip down memory lane, another “revival” show, another chance to revisit one of the acts of my fledgling early 80’s late teen formative musical years… a slightly different twist on the theme this time though; Peter Murphy, former frontman of 80’s dark, twisted art-school rockers turned Goth pioneers Bauhaus, chose to celebrate his former charges’ 35th Anniversary not by getting the old crowd back together, but instead by touring a full Bauhaus set with his own band! I missed out on the chance to see Bauhaus back in the day, as my musical tastes evolved away from the subsequent more black-clad, bat-infested Theatre of Goth, and also a few years back, when a Summer 2006 full Bauhaus reunion tour coincided with a holiday abroad. So I resolved to take the opportunity this time, also being joined by recent punk-oriented gig buddy Debs and old friend Doug McGuire, who’d been threatening to join me for a gig of late, and finally sorted one out!
I’d surmised this to be an early – and busy one, so I picked my gig companions up early doors for an entertaining drive down, parking up at 7.15. Wrong on both counts, though, as the place was deserted on arrival, a portent for the evening; the venue only ever got 2/3rds full at best, with the balcony shut all night. T’uh, no respect, these Bristol ians… also, we faced an hour wait for the support, so hit the bar to chat. Support Eyes On Film, when they arrived, certainly looked the part; 5 leather jacketed young bucks and a hard-hitting female drummer playing some early-doors edgy punky stuff, reminiscent of a darker Marion . However they degenerated into innocuous background noise and personality-free random riffery. A young band with much to learn about talking the talk before they walk the walk, methinks…
We took a good stage left viewing spot before being regaled with a short film featuring clips from Peter Murphy’s forthcoming album “Lions”, some haunting and resonant stuff proving you can take the boy out of the batcave, but… However, we were here for some doomy nostalgia, and following a final fiddly soundcheck we got it, as Murphy and his young band took the stage to little fanfare, easing through a couple of baroque, introspective openers embellished with some chillingly lovely mandolin, before taking flight with a strident “Double Dare”, all seething and swooping drama.
Bauhaus ploughed a fiercely idiosyncratic furrow in the early 80’s rock landscape, funnelling influences such as Bowie, Krautrock, post-punk and art school rock through a dark and slightly depraved worldview, strewn with sleazy sex and horror imagery and references. Like all pioneers, their own music wasn’t as extreme as that which followed in their wake, retaining style and melody instead of the comic Munsters goth of, say, Alien Sex Fiend. This was embodied tonight by Murphy’s performance; imperiously striding the stage, adjusting the sound throughout (tweak this up, turn that down, a perfectionist in motion), and overlaying these classic songs with his rich, deep and sonorous vocals, adding suitable haunting gravitas to his lyrics. “In The Flat Field” and “God In An Alcove” were a superb early double salvo delivered by an impressive band, Murphy underlining this with, “these guys have been with me awhile; this isn’t Bauhaus, this isn’t trying to be a covers band – this is the shit!”
Murphy, strangely, also contrasted his imperious stage presence with some odd vaudeville routines, a stand up routine referencing Bristolians Massive Attack and Portishead (“if you’re here, hi…”) preceding the acoustic shimmer of “Silent Hedges”. A funky “Kick In The Eye”, accompanied by Murphy’s high kicks, brought back early 80’s Wednesday night Brunel memories, and a mournful reading of “Strange Kind Of Love” was dedicated to bassist Emilio’s late mother, Emilios’ virtuoso violin work proving a fitting tribute. Then, a magnificent set highlight; the gloomy, claustrophobic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, stretching out sinuously and languidly throughout its’ full 9 minutes, with Murphy’s vocal a deliciously sinister feature. Simply stunning.
The classics kept rolling; “Passion Of Lovers”, an extended, echoey and dubby “She’s In Parties”, a brilliantly jagged and ragged “Dark Entries” sadly shorn of the great inhalation of breath on record but magnificent nonetheless, songs I never thought I’d hear “live”, songs as familiar as time and tonight delivered as celebratory as they were dark. Another vaudeville routine punctuated encore “Hollow Hills”, a by-now bare-chested but impressively rakish Murphy posing and preening, channelling Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke (!) before commenting “it’s odd that [this song] is a classic, [likewise] “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, David Jay wrote that, but I killed it; without my vocals, that song would be shit!”. Actually, true, that. A raucous “Telegram Sam” and a brilliantly singalong “Ziggy Stardust”, underlying Murphy’s debt to Bowie , concluded a brilliant evening. Murphy ended with thanks to his impressive band and sincere thanks to us, for joining this 35th Anniversary celebration. Me, I wouldn’t have missed it, and it was a real surprise that so many did.
Elated, I grabbed a set-list and we headed off, having witnessed another resurrection almost on a par with Adam Ant’s recent revival Yup, that good. Mr. Murphy, Sir, you and your band tonight did full justice to the impressive legacy of Bauhaus. Well done.