PETER MURPHY @ SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | 7/16/13 Near the end of his set last night, Peter Murphy paused a moment as the last echo of "She's In Parties" rang out and the repetitive yet urgent bass line for "Stigmata Martyr" rolled in for a measure or two. Then the guitars, with clipped, hanging harmonics, came in, followed the bass line and intermittent, burning mini-riffs as Murphy's voice hit the higher register notes at the beginning of the song.
Murphy was in a darker mode as he captured the feeling of the song in some ways better than the original version. When he got to the part of the song in which the lyrics are in Latin, Murphy spoke each syllable deliberately, enhancing the feeling of cathartic hysteria, especially as his vocals escalated in volume and emotional intensity as the song closed.
The show started with the stage darkened, and it stayed dimly lit from when Peter Murphy and his bandmates took the stage well into the first song, "King Volcano." With the exception of an especially lush and beautifully moving take on "A Strange Kind of Love," the set mainly consisted of all Bauhaus songs.
Throughout the set, Murphy struck various poses and made dramatic gestures like an actor from the school of Antonin Artaud acting for stage and silent film. He even had a pose or two where it looked like he was preening before a make-up mirror. It certainly lightened, but did not make light of, the dark, brooding nature of so many of the songs.
During a menacing, nightmarish rendition of "Bela Lugosi's Dead," Murphy leaned forward, arms arched back like wings, so that his face was struck by a pink light coloring it like a mask of supernatural menace. At other times in the show, the same pose was offered with a different facial expression, projecting a different emotional flavor -- one of celebration and even the release of tension on the verge of exhilaration.
This performance of "The Passion of Lovers" gave the band the chance to display in full form the subtle yet complex dynamics and sonic layers of the song. The way all the sounds weave together, it's as though the melody and the two ends of the main rhythm section are in different time signatures or in different patterns, and they come together at points to enhance the force of the emotional and sonic peaks and valleys of the song -- similar to something that would come out of north African music.
Murphy was absolutely commanding, and his voice has rarely sounded better. The band felt like it was working perfectly together and with a commitment to the material. This is what made it possible for the only major disruption of the show to go off without more angst than necessary:
Apparently a scuffle was taking place, causing Murphy and company to stop playing. Murphy stepped to the front of the stage and tossed an opened bottle of water into that part of the audience and asked what was going on -- "What is this?" he snapped. "Fucking Spring Break?" -- and then he told the offenders to get out of there. After that he and the band went right back into an interrupted "Dark Entries."
After the main set, the band came back on and treated us to "Burning From the Inside," which certainly came as a pleasant surprise. During the funky choruses, Murphy did a dance where he fluidly walked in place like he was crafting his own funk frontman persona. It was funny and cool at the same time, and not many people can pull that off.
That song was followed by "Hollow Hills," which seemed less drifty than the sketch of haunted isolation that it is. As counterpoint, "Telegram Sam" was an electrifying rocker with another, the great cover of "Ziggy Stardust" coming in immediately after the last note of that song. This most certainly didn't seem like an aging rock star trying to regain some past glory; it felt like a beloved musician giving us the music he was a part of making in the form it should have taken for years.
Continue on for a bit on the openers, as well as the setlist and Critic's Notebook
The whole show opened with a short set from Residual Kid from Austin, Texas. Sounding a bit Weezer, a bit Mudhoney, a bit more of the blustery end of garage rock, Residual Kid actually had a presence belying their collective age (the members are still teenagers) and their songs had real bite and wiry energy. Hopefully no one peddles their youth as a gimmick because these guys can play and have that rare ferocity of spirit we need more of right about now.
Ours was up next. Jimmy Gnecco's voice was quite strong and the music sounded like good ballad rock -- which is very difficult to pull off. The second to last number was perhaps the strongest of the set. Something about the performance, though, felt like studio musicians on tour rather than a band of people that have gelled on a deep personal level. Nevertheless, Gnecco awkwardly acknowledged why we were there once and then rephrased that acknowledgment more graciously later when a lot of musicians would have dismissed the audience.
Peter Murphy Summit Music Hall - 7/16/13 Denver, CO
01. King Volcano 02. Kingdom's Coming 03. Double Dare 04. In The Flat Field 05. God In An Alcove 06. Boys 07. Silent Hedges 08. Kick In the Eye 09. Spy In the Cab 10. A Strange Kind of Love 11. Bela Lugosi's Dead 12. The Passion of Lovers 13. She's In Parties 14. Stigmata Martyr 15. Dark Entries
16. Burning From the Inside 17. Hollow Hills 18. Telegram Sam 19. Ziggy Stardust
Personal Bias: I've been a fan of Bauhaus ever since hearing "Stigmata Martyr" in a B-grade horror movie called Night of the Demons. And Peter Murphy solo -- I've been into his work separate from Bauhaus since a friend loaned me Deep about a year after it came out. Random Detail: Ran into Ed Marshall of Forests of Azure and former Tarmints and The Symptoms bassist Sonya Decman at the show. By the Way: We should all be so impassioned in life in general as Peter Murphy is at age 56.