Peter Murphy Numbers April 25, 2013
Maybe Peter Murphy should get arrested more often.
That may be a horrible thing to say, but if you had seen him at Numbers, you'd understand. This tour had been previously announced, but whether his March arrest in California for DUI and alleged drug possession has left the undead Bauhaus front man in need of money (probably not) or just happy to get out on the road and have something to do (likelier), his performance Friday night was the work of if not a man possessed, definitely a man with something to prove.
It was inspired, at the very least. Murphy was courtly, sinister, sometimes atop the drum riser, and more a little peeved when the sound crapped out halfway through. He also stated in no uncertain terms that the three musicians onstage with him were "not some copycat band." Hell, the way he wielded his illuminated "wand" that resembled a Maglite, maybe he was a little possessed.
Eschewing any of his solo material for some deep, deep Bauhaus cuts -- although they were hardly a singles band to begin with -- Murphy's strobe-lit 90-minute set mined the darker corners (you knew I was going there) of the post-punk/goth-rock forefathers' catalog with a variegated but always macabre song list. We got some exotic dub in "She's In Parties," a disco trip to "Kick In the Eye," and even the Beatles via Vincent Price in "The Passion of Lovers."
The band, meanwhile, plowed through the skronk and scrape of the driving "In the Flatfield" and the throbbing "Double Dare." Their leader was in a good mood. Sort of.
"If you call me 'dark,' I'll kick you out," he said early on.
Times being what they are, though... "Why are you looking at me through a fucking cell phone?" he asked not long after.
Beats me too. Nonetheless, the only real stumbling point in the evening came during "All We Ever Wanted Was Everything," a "song of loneliness" that calls for absolute stillness and did not quite get it with all the ambient chatter. (The crowd was fine during the noisier songs.) Smartly, the next song was "Bela Lugosi's Dead," which in almost 35 years has lost none of its ability to unnerve an audience with its glacial build to an otherworldly intensity.
But Murphy righted the ship quite well, bringing on the teenage-looking drummer from Austin openers the Boxing Lesson (come back please) to assist on "Too Much 21st Century," the lone song from "reunion" album 2008 Go Away White, delivered with slithering Stooge-like sensuality. (The band has expressed little interest in any further group activity ever since, but Murphy was quite complimentary of lyricist and ex-bassist Daniel Ash a couple of times.) "Stigmata Martyr" scratched off some steel-wool industrial grind, and that was it.
For an encore, he gave us some prime British boogie in T. Rex's "Telegram Sam," more rock-star bona fides with you-know-who's "Ziggy Stardust," and one last laser-guided trip to Bauhaus' punk crypt with "Dark Entries." Then a bow and a "good night," and he vanished into the night, or rather to a meet-and-greet with fans.
Well done, Mr. Murphy.
Personal Bias: You might not know it to look at me, but I have been a huge Bauhaus fan since high school, even before I was into Depeche Mode or the Cure. Most of my knowledge of alternative, industrial and post-punk music was filtered through their lens.
The Crowd: Sensible, respectable older goths, a few with adorable junior goths in tow. Occasional corsets. Mostly normals, though, and people looking to get a jump on Classic Numbers, which commenced shortly after Murphy left the stage with "Jet Boy Jet Girl."
Overhead In the Crowd: "Fix the sound!!!" It got done, eventually.
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Random Notebook Dump: Any time you look down and see a blue laser beam on your crotch, you know it's gonna be a good show.