Peter Murphy at Granada Theater, 7/30/14
It's hard to believe that Peter Murphy is touring behind his tenth studio album as a solo artist since his genre defining original band Bauhaus split up. I actually saw him quite a few times in the 90s'. Back then he would not play any songs from his old band. On one of those occasions a very young Nine Inch Nails was opening for him.
My friends and I all went to see Peter Murphy solo because it was the closest we were going to get to seeing Bauhaus. Bauhaus got back together for a series of reunion shows in the late '90s. That reunion did not stick, but it did put new energy into Murphy's solo material which has improved substantially since those reunion shows.
It was a slow building early crowd for Dallas based synth-driven postpunk acolytes Nervous Curtains in the opening slot. As the zigzag TV static video imagery flashed on the video screens Nervous Curtains bobbed and weaved through a set of their fractured synth pop.The crowd up front was fully embracing the Curtains, but their impact was off kilter as you got farther from the stage. The drums and Sean Kirkpatrick's vocals were front and center, but the keyboards and synths were buried in the mix in the main speakers. Victims of a band sound night. They pushed through and the sound was just about right by their set closer.
I was not quite sure about the second opener Austin's My Jerusalem. I had checked out some of their tunes in the days leading up to the show and thought they were an odd fit for Peter Murphy tour. The first quarter of their set seem to only confirm my suspicions. A little too indie rock bar band for such an otherwise melodramatic bill. It was not bad, but certainly not stand out. Right when I was ready to write them off they busted out of bar band mode into something all the more substantial. I started to connect with what they were going for and it reminded me of a time when bands like The Alarm or Lloyd Cole and the Commotions were still regulars of college radio charts. My Jerusalem did not sound specifically like those bands, but their frontman exuded presence and bellowed with sincerity. I had my doubts, but My Jerusalem definitely won me over.
Unlike the previous two bands there were no sound issues for Murphy and his band. The opening synths of the album opener to his latest effort "Hang Up" sent huge pulsating waves out to a very welcoming crowd. It immediately caught my attention. I was little bummed when I noticed there was no one playing synth. Normally backing tracks would turn me off, but in this case the use was subtle enough that it did not distract from what his band was bring to the show.
The first ten songs of his set relied heavily on his new album "Lion", His last album "Ninth", and his 90's college radio staple "Deep". All very solid performances that in a live setting exist comfortably between gloomy goth introspection and the playfulness of classic glam rock. Murphy may be the Godfather of goth, but the influence of Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie is ever present. Through Murphy's filter that influence ends up sounding closer to what Bowie's 80s' rock experiment Tin Machine might have interpreted the Ziggy era.
Gaslit from his Secret Bees EP was a total standout with the bassist switching over to electric violin and drummer reducing to a shaker and a kick drum. Murphy's emotional depth was in full view on this song. Relying more on sincerity over his normal pageantry. Murphy displayed the maturity and gravitas that only comes from having as long a career as he has weathered..
Ten songs into a very satisfying set of his solo material Murphy pivoted to some Bauhaus red meat for the audience with "Silent Hedges" and "She's in Parties". Murphy busted out a melodica for "She's In Parties" for an extended dub style version. There was always more than a hint of dub in Bauhaus as evidence by there hallmark "Bela Lagosi's Dead". The dub influence is on full display for this extended take. The band really gets to let loose and improv a bit.
Murphy comes back for a four song encore that including his most successful solo single "Cuts You Up" and the Bauhaus classic "Stygmata Martyr" before heading out for the night.
Throughout Murphy's set he exuded the confidence of an elder statesmen. Murphy in the '90s just could not get out from under the shadow of his former band, but this is a problem he's obviously learned to overcome.