Adapted from The Orange County Register:
There’s no question that Peter Murphy, whether on his own or fronting the seminal goth band Bauhaus, has a flair for the dramatic. More than a decade after Bauhaus played Coachella his entrance – wrapped in black ribbons, lowered from the rafters to sing “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” upside down like some rock ’n’ roll vampire – remains one of my all-time highlights from the desert music fest.
And while it was a smaller scale show that Murphy brought to the Observatory in Santa Ana on Wednesday – the Stripped tour features just Murphy with bassist-violinist Emilio China and guitarist John Andrews in a semi-acoustic run through his solo career and Bauhaus classics – it nonetheless offered its own subtle drama and charm thanks to the strength of the songs and Murphy’s theatrical voice and vision.
The night opened with Murphy perched on a stool like a folksinger, singing “Cascade” off the 1995 album of the same name, though as its slow groove swirled and shifted he rose to walk to the edge of the stage, waving his arms slowly like a bird in flight.
For the first half of his 85 minutes on stage Murphy focused mostly on his solo catalog, with songs such as “All Night Long” and “Marlene Dietrich’s Favourite Poem” among the early highlights. With a voice that at times can sound strikingly like the late David Bowie it felt perfect that he’d cover a Bowie number, picking “The Bewlay Brothers,” an album cut off 1971’s “Hunky Dory” and doing it with a sincerity that was touching.
Murphy’s pegged as a founding father of goth for the music and image that Bauhaus created but it’s really not an accurate tag, post-punk being a more apt description. For one thing, he’s no mope on stage, waving to fans in the audience and chatting a bit between songs. Still, there’s still a bit of menace in the mix, too: While singing “The Rose,” a slow and emotional number, he picked up a water bottle and hurled it a fan for talking loudly and distractingly during his performance, and when the song ended, cursed him or her out with an Englishman’s flair for the language.
In the back half of the show the songs focused more on Bauhaus, with “King Volcano” and “Silent Hedges,” the latter one of the standouts of the night, played before a pair of strong solo numbers, “Never Fall Out” and “Lion,” the title track to his most recent album from 2014.
While early in the set his voice sounded a bit hoarse in places – an effect of the very cold air-conditioning pumping into the room, Murphy said – it got stronger as the show went on and sounded terrific for the encore that opened with “Gaslit,” flowed into “Hollow Hills,” another Bauhaus classic, and ended with the song for which he and that band will forever be associated.
No more acoustic guitars and violin, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” got the fully amplified treatment, with Murphy creating shards of electronic feedback as he sang and China and Andrews rumbling and grinding away at their plugged-in instruments, a powerful song no matter the setting in which its presented.
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