Peter Murphy/ Webster Hall/
By Doktor John
May 7, 2013
The Godfather of Gothic Rock made the unlucky thirteenth stop on his tour of the East Coast, with eight more North American towns to go before heading overseas for another 20 cities 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 have suggested that he considers his ongoing solo project to represent the continuation of Bauhaus. Most would agree that L & R, has spun further off from the original style than has Murphy.
Rare reunion tours occurred in1998 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 vocalist Peter 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 line-up.
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 PM’s 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 made 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” next came “Adrenalin,” the one entry from the last reunion album, “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 PM’s obviously under-performing vocals. Whether it was allergies, a cold or fatigue, PM’s voice was hoarse and weak, although intermittently redeemed by his sheer courage and supreme effort. Despite not feeling well and the announcement of passing of his mother-in-law earlier the same day, PM 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 has made their own: T. Rexs “Telegram Sam” and Bowies “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.