Those of you familiar with this blog, will know Bauhaus is one of my favourite bands. Sadly, I never had a chance to see them live, but I’ve been to several of Peter Murphy’s great solo gigs in the past 3-4 years. When I heard his current Mr Moonlight tour would consist of an all Bauhaus set, to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the band, I figured this would be my chance to hear some of those classic Bauhaus tracks live for the first time, and I was not disappointed.
The show at the O2 Academy in Islington was sold out, and since I had a feeling it would get packed quickly, I arrived shortly after the doors had opened. Even that early on, there were already many fans gathered by the front of the stage.
As expected, there was an opening act, but any hopes of being entertained, were dashed, when we had to endure a band that shall remain nameless, as there was nothing memorable about them. To say I found this frustrating and infuriating is an understatement. In the year my music blog has been running, I’ve seen local bands with great potential. Musicians whose talent and musical credentials, are up to par, to be the opening act for a great performer as Peter, and who I know, would’ve entertained the bored looking audience, many of whom, stood with arms crossed during the entire band’s set.
Fortunately after this, things improved as we watched a promotional video with highlights from Peter’s upcoming solo album. A great idea to set the mood, and the new songs sounded fantastic. Then, as the lights dimmed and Peter’s band finally took to the stage, you could feel a rush of excitement emanating from the audience, who came alive again, when hearing guitarist Mark Gemini Thwaite strum the opening chords to King Volcano from Burning from the Inside. The haunting track set the mood for another rarity from the same album, Kingdom’s Coming, followed by a spine tingling version of Double Dare, complete with strobe lighting, which suited the song perfectly. A great start that made you forget the opening band fiasco.
After Double Dare, came not one, but two Bauhaus classics back to back, the darkly intense In the Flat Field and the iconic God in an Alcove, both had the audience going wild, with the front of the stage becoming chaotic, making me glad I was upstairs, where I had an excellent view of not only the stage but the audience.
One thing I must mention, was the lack of a decent quality mike stand for Peter, who had to deal with a shoddy one which kept falling apart. You’d think a venue like the O2 Academy, would’ve provided their headlining act with a good quality stand. Peter, as ever the professional, still managed to do an outstanding gig in spite of this, but I certainly understood his frustration whenever he threw said mike stand towards the back.
After God in an Alcove, we heard Boys, another rarity I never thought I’d hear live, with Peter carrying a portable light which he held close to the other band member’s faces and then to his own face. This quirky lighting trick really added to the performance, and reminded me that Bauhaus were pioneers at utilising the effects of sparse lighting to give their live performances additional depth.
Silent Hedges followed next, and when the dancing beat of Kick in the Eye was heard, the audience loved it. Afterwards, came the first of two non-Bauhaus tracks during the set, with Peter playing guitar, for a beautiful rendition of A Strange Kind of Love, one of my favourite solo songs from his Love Hysteria album.
Then came the legendary Bela Lugosi’s Dead, sounding as good as the original Bauhaus, with Mark’s atmospheric guitar playing giving the song its well-known otherworldly feel.
As mentioned earlier, the lighting during the show was excellent, with changes for every song. When a reddish glow bathed the stage, my mind recalled the iconic 1982 Old Vic theatre performance of The Passion of Lovers, featured in Bauhaus’ Shadow of Light/Archive DVD compilation, and I was correct in my assumption. In spite of the fact I’d seen Peter perform Lovers in Paris a few years go, it was still one of my favourite moments of the entire show.
Next came an unrehearsed but great version of Lagartija Nick. A treat for any Bauhaus lover. Followed by She’s in Parties and the spooky unnerving Stigmata Martyr, with Peter playing electric guitar along with Mark. Again, one of those timeless songs that still manages to give me chills whenever I hear it.
Afterwards, we had yet another Bauhaus classic, Dark Entries which oozed the same raw punkish energy one hears on the record. The second non-Bauhaus track of the night came next, and was the only song I didn’t recognise at first. It turned out to be Severance, a Dead Can Dance cover, which I know Peter has covered before.
The encore consisted of Hollow Hills, Spirit, and the infamous Ziggy Stardust cover that Bauhaus were known for, originally recorded as an ironic slap in the face to the music critics who always maligned them, calling them Bowie clones.
The entire gig was a dream come true for any Bauhaus fan, but also, for any fans of Peter, who may have been too young to have seen him with the band that started it all.
It was a pleasure to see Peter perform again, sounding better than ever. I’m glad he is able to look back at those years in Bauhaus and celebrate his past, after all he must have endured, being constantly accused of taking the spotlight, when it was down to the music press, always choosing the lead singer first, in a musical hierarchy that still goes on in rock music even to this day. I wish him all the success he truly deserves, and hope he continues to excel in his career.
Lastly, I want to thank the lovely Cristina Lo Prete for allowing me to use several of her photographs, which are certainly much better than the few I managed to take on my mobile from the balcony.