40 years ago, punk rock was in its prime. 1979 saw The Ramones, The Clash, and The Damned in full swing. There were some bands that strayed from mainstream sounds but veered off from the punk sound. Most notably, the Cramps took the path of “voodoo rockabilly” while Bauhaus took a more gothic approach to alternative music. 40 years later, Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy and bassist David J are touring to commemorate the ruby anniversary of the founding of their groundbreaking band. These two founding members were joined by guitarist Mark Thwaite and drummer Marc Slutsky to bring their original goth sound to longtime fans and newcomers alike and no one was disappointed.
Worcester, Massachusetts was the site of this tour’s only New England show and the crowd traveled from all over the area to see this special event. The show kicked off with an inspired set by London’s psychedelic rock darlings, Desert Mountain Tribe. While ethereal psych rock bands are not usually energetic, lead singer / guitarist Jonty Balls and his bass player Matthew Holt constantly moved about the stage while drummer Frank van der Ploeg attacked his kit. DMT held the audience’s attention and worked them up as they moved through their set. They set the stage nicely for the band everyone had come to see, just as all opening acts are expected to do and are certainly worth seeing on their own.
As with all of the shows on this anniversary tour, this night began with a full run down of Bauhaus’ groundbreaking inaugural album, In The Flat Field. From the first strains of the show opener, “Double Dare”, the crowd was mesmerized by Murphy’s voice which has defied time and remains as haunting as it was 40 years ago. The entire band was dressed in black as was most of the crowd. With his face adorned with a goatee, Murphy looked like the quintessential old-school movie version of the devil himself. David J was decked out in a black sports coat and sported Ray Ban sunglasses both of which gave him the air of being as cool as a tombstone on a Summer’s night. Peter and David defied their age as they continuously moved about the stage with Peter taking position behind Slutsky and his drums several times and menacingly stalking the stage for a majority of the remaining time.
Early on, an un-thinking concert goer tossed something on stage. Murphy, who is known for not tolerating such antics, professionally carried on through the song and once it was over, let loose with a profanity laden tirade at the transgressor and then continued with the set. Apart from a slight dousing of the audience with the contents of his water bottle, there were no other performer / audience issues during the show.
The show was entertaining both musically and visually. During “Stigmata”, a heavily back lit Murphy had his mic stand resting across his back with his outstretched arms draped over it causing his silhouette to appear as if he was being crucified. “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” saw Murphy turn up the wing like collar of his over shirt which was accented with a red scarf in tribute to subject of the Bauhaus classic. Throughout the whole show, Murphy’s piercing eyes scanned the audience as if looking for a soul to steal or they looked upwards as if asking for redemption. During “Small Talk Stinks” Murphy picked up a megaphone and sang through it giving his voice a sinister, hollow, and unworldly quality quite different than when the likes of Tom Waits does the same. An item he used to enhance the performance during “She’s In Parties” was a mouth driven keyboard instrument known as a melodica which is in the family of the harmonica. One never knew what one was going to see or hear next during this performance!
Peter, along with David J and company, certainly gave an inspiring performance which brought those in attendance back to a golden age in alternative music. This tour has only a few shows left in North America but if you have the opportunity to attend one, do yourself a favor and get to it. It’s a decision that you will not regret!
1. Double Dare
2. In the Flat Field
3. A God in an Alcove
5. Spy In The Cab
6. Small Talk Stinks
7. St. Vitus Dance
8. Stigmata Martyr
10. Burning from the Inside
11. Silent Hedges
12. Bela Lugosi’s Dead
13. She’s in Parties
14. Kick in the Eye
15. King Volcano
16. Kingdom’s Coming
17. Severance – Dead Can Dance cover
Review and photos by Rich Russo