Review: Peter Murphy/Bauhaus, October 20, Auckland

Sometimes, you just want to get dark. 

Peter Murphy and Bauhaus were progenitors of a lot of what’s called goth – black-clad attire, grimly themed lyrics and a thrumming dark atmosphere. Murphy passed through Auckland’s Powerstation Saturday night with his old Bauhaus bandmate David J to play a nearly sold-out crowd. 

They played the band’s epic first album, 1980’s “In The Flat Field,” in its entirety, and then a sprawling second set of Bauhaus numbers including what’s their best known number by far, the none-more-goth tune “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” Fittingly, the show was on what would’ve been Bela’s 136th birthday. 

I’ve loved Murphy’s gloomy rock for years – his breakthrough solo album after Bauhaus broke up, 1989’s “Deep,” was in heavy, heavy rotation when I was a gloomy would-be-goth teenager. (Spoiler: I was never a very successful goth.) 

But I’ll tell you what – I feel a hell of a lot more goth at 40-something than I did at 19. You know more about life’s twists and turns by 46 and how dark it can get. So why not sometimes embrace the melancholy, lean into the comforting charms of the void? Why not listen to Bauhaus sing that “the passion of lovers is for de-a-a-a-ath”? And have fun doing it? 

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So to be in a crowd full of people dressed in black, some in outlandish makeup, and singing along with a chorus of “Undead / undead / undead!” – that felt like my tribe. Seen today, “In The Flat Field” looks like a fierce, uncompromising classic, and not-quite-Bauhaus performed the hell out of it, hitting high notes like “A God In An Alcove,” the creepy “The Spy In The Cab”, the frenzied “St. Vitus Dance.” 

It was a terrific show that Murphy is still in fine voice 38 years after Bauhaus’ debut album – his rich baritone contains caverns. Sure, he looks less like one of Anne Rice’s vampires than he once did, but he’s got a magnificent, strutting, slightly camp stage presence. 

For the encore, he pulled on a red scarf, looking more than a little bit like Bela Lugosi did as Dracula, and sang about poor dead Bela. It was dark, and it was wonderful, and as the show ended nobody wanted to go back into the light. 

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Pictures by me

 

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