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LIVE REPORT: Peter Murphy
Chris Low , June 24th, 2013 06:42

Despite recent bother with the LAPD, Peter Murphy is on celebratory form at the Islington Academy, says Chris Low. Pics thanks to John Marshall

Now a resident of Turkey, Peter Murphy last toured Europe in 2011 and since then has been in the public eye for the wrong reasons - his recent arrest for driving under the influence and possession of methamphetamine. Tonight's turn-out suggests this hasn’t diminished his appeal – or the anticipation that greets his arrival on stage.

The forgotten truth of Bauhaus is that a lot of their music was actually very, very good... When they recorded their most revered works the term “gothic” was really only applied to architecture and a few 18th century authors. Like most music genres, as even a cursory look at the other 'goth' bands - Virgin Prunes, Southern Death Cult, UK Decay, The Birthday Party – demonstrates, each had a startling unique look and sound. Perhaps if Bauhaus hadn’t lyrically embraced so many of what later, with the advent of the Batcave Club and associated acts, became the ‘tropes’ of goth (a template, arguably, already founded by Siouxsie & the Banshees) they would probably have passed for one of the better, albeit more theatrical, post-punk bands and escaped the 'G'-stigma.

Looking considerably better preserved than his police mug-shot would suggest, Murphy arrives on stage as lean and with a voice as strong as ever. Despite a sound-mix that initially renders the first few numbers unrecognisable slush, by the time 'In The Flat Field' blasts out the sludge has been removed, and from then on it's all thriller-no filler. Murphy and backing band launch into a greatest hits set of Bauhaus classics encompassing a glorious, funked –up 'Kick In The Eye', frenetic renditions of 'Lagartija Nick’ and ‘Dark Entries’. Then there's 'Double Dare', 'God In An Alcove', 'The Passion Of Lovers', 'Stigmata Martyr' , 'She’s In Parties', a dub-inflected 'Bela Lugosi’s Dead' and an unexpected version of Dead Can Dance’s “severance”. The other cover of the night is the final encore of 'Ziggy Stardust' , a song that was notable even at its time of release for being an almost exact take on the Bowie original, suggesting perhaps Bauhaus wilfully distancing themselves from the emergent goth culture and planting their roots firmly in the heritage of glam.

Similarly, tonight is a pertinent reminder of how many other acts and genres, from Suede to neo-folk, owe a debt to Bauhaus. The mature years of the crowd is another surprise - this in’t the black lace and monster boots brigade. Clearly many present grew up to these tunes and tonight is a re-living of past pleasures, without all the bother of crimping and back-combing that would been mandatory decades before.

Murphy is the composite entertainer, his new-found bonhomie and ebullient stage persona in keeping with the celebratory nature of this 35 year anniversary show. That's not to say the old diva isn't in evidence at times, however. His frustration and displeasure at the sound-mix is clear as he gesticulates offstage, one unfortunate roadie fell victim to his ire following a less-than-smooth guitar exchange, and another is obliged to act as a human mike stand for half a song, lending an incongruous, Alan Partridge-esque levity to proceedings. Yet such moments only serves to humanise the band, undoing some of the austere pomposity that gave such ammunition to Murphy and Bauhaus' critics. It adds to the sense that this is an unusual state of affairs heightened by the grinning faces all around at the end - if there was ever one crowd of fans you’d never have expected expect to see looking so happy it’s this one.

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