Last Thursday night at Northern Lights in Clifton Park, Peter Murphy did not perform to a vast sea of black-clad, morbid individuals nodding their heads of dyed-black hair, pasty faces with black-lined eyes riveted upon the charismatic vocalist widely honored as the “Godfather of Goth”. True, there were a few in what could be characterized as “gothic fashion.” With thirty years having passed since he fronted pioneering goth-rock band Bauhaus, Murphy drew not a legion of followers but an enthusiastic, modest-sized crowd of fans familiar with his band and solo work.
Entering the hazy, low-lit stage dressed all in black, Murphy warmed his unique baritone to the moody drone of Bauhaus’ “Zikir”, which segued into the Middle Eastern-tinged rocker “Low Room” from his “Holy Smoke” solo album. Three new songs followed – the Iggy Pop-styled “Velocity Bird,” heavy riff rocker “Peace to Each”
and the snappy pop-rock of “Memory Go” – all slated to appear on Murphy’s upcoming album “Ninth.”
Bauhaus’ “Silent Hedges” and “Burning From The Inside” led up to a stunning “I’ll Fall With Your Knife”, Murphy’s powerful vocal inflections and intonation not wavering to the end. Perhaps David Bowie has a dark twin; if so, it would be Murphy, as a hard charging version of “Ziggy Stardust” brought a roar from the crowd.
A short break allowed Murphy to reintroduce “his protégé,” show opener Jessie Mayer, and assist on her song “Labyrinth.” In only her third public performance, Mayer’s raw, dark, folk-rock story-songs tended to sound all the same, but her earnest performance and haunting voice kept the crowd near the stage.
Afterwards, Murphy and his crack, black-clad band trolled the deep ocean of his solo material and the work of past collaborators, pulling up pearls to present to a very happy, enthralled audience. With no disrespect meant toward Trent Reznor or Johnny Cash, Murphy perhaps sang the definitive version of “Hurt,” his moving delivery quieting the crowd in awe. “Marlene Dietrich’s Favourite Poem” and “Crystal Wrists” – both from his popular album “Deep” – connected to the final show-closers “The Prince and Old Lady Shade” and “Uneven and Brittle” – again, new modern goth-rock songs.
A three song encore instantly recharged the crowd: “Huuvola” and a stellar “A Strange Kind of Love” (in which he “vamped” lyrical pieces of the popular “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” to rousing applause) led to a chugging rock version of Murphy’s biggest hit, “Cuts You Up”.
Throughout the show, Murphy was an engaging, effusive and darkly charming showman, clearly enjoying the rapport with his fans, piercing eyes finding every member of the audience. His stage antics, whether posing as a male version of the Black Swan or for a photo shoot for Vampire Vogue, pogo dancing or twirling like a mad ballet master, confirmed to me that perhaps he hasn’t quite achieved a level of popular success he deserves.
I’m fairly certain Peter Murphy’s world-weary answer to that would be, “I know.”
Review by Andy Gregory
Ann Morrow’s review at Metroland
Excerpt from Brian McElhiney’s review at The Daily Gazette: “It was perhaps a bit surprising just how much levity the former Bauhaus singer also brought to the stage throughout his band’s hour-and-a-half-long set, which covered everything from new songs off the coming ‘Ninth’ to Bauhaus classics. ‘I may as well be a stripper up here – come on. Money. Get it out,’ he announced early on in the set, while prancing for the front row. At one point, he addressed those same adoring fans – ‘Stop adoring me; just buy the [expletive] record,’ he sighed. ‘I’m exhausted as it is already.’”
PETER MURPHY SET LIST
Peace to Each
Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie)
Fall with Your Knife
Labyrinth (with Jessie Mayer)
Hurt (Nine Inch Nails)
Marlene Dietrich’s Favourite Poem
The Prince and Old Lady Shade
Uneven & Brittle
A Strange Kind of Love>Bela Lugosi’s Dead
Cuts You Up