For all the goth-related hype that once surrounded his beloved first band, Bauhaus, and for all of the vocal/artistic parallels made with the late David Bowie, Peter Murphy has always been able to rely on being an original voice without artifice.
Oh sure, there are moments when the Man Who Sold the World comes through in a few numbers. Nonetheless, Murphy's passionate and dramatic baritone offerings have long since cut through all the periphery of post-punk dressings to prove his is a craft based on a serious dedication to maintaining a dynamic and diverse delivery.
Whether whispering chants or belting it out of the bell tower, Murphy has consistently sang, both in=studio and live, with a sense of urgency, belied by a calm and cool assurance. The common thread, be it telling a tattered soul-baring tale or a tapestry of the woven folly of mankind, the voice is the steadying force.
Murphy played a seated affair at the sold-out Crescent Ballroom Tuesday night. The aptly labeled “Stripped” tour saw Murphy accompanied by two players, guitarist John Andrews (Loud Boy) and bassist/violin player Emilio China. The group filled the ballroom with a wide-ranging assortment of numbers that had the sold-out audience suspended in time.
Over the course of 79 minutes, Murphy painted an aural landscape that journeyed through 17 numbers with a balanced palette of songs from seven of his 10 solo albums, throwing in a few Bauhaus cuts. As he entered the stage, dressed in black pants and shoes with a white scarf-like collar, Murphy went immediately into character.
He opened with “Cascade” from the album of the same name from 1995 and let fly a high-powered vocal delivery that set the tone for the evening. On “Secret,” Murphy’s stage mates wasted little time in earning their salaries. Andrews strummed a guttural guitar that countered the Middle Eastern wails of China’s violin, and it showed just how talented the stripped-down band was.
A pair of numbers from the 1989 album Love Hysteria followed with the crowd-pleasing “Indigo Eyes” and “All Night Long.”
The most emotional of all numbers, “Marlene Dietrich’s Favourite Poem” seemingly brought tears to audience eyes, as Murphy lamented,” Forgive me please for hurting so, don't go away heartbroken, no.”
Like a chameleon, Murphy was able to quickly do an about-face and pre-empted his obscure David Bowie cover “Bewlay Brothers,” joking about his real or fictitious amorous dealings with Ziggy Stardust. While there is only so much a performer can do on a short but wide stage with only minimal lighting, Murphy on this number became very theatrical, with Bowie-esque poses, interpretive dance-like movements, and turned direct eye contact with several audience members into longing gazes.
Before heading into the Bauhaus catalog, Murphy sang probably his most romantic song, “A Strange Kind of Love,” that had audience members swaying. Very gregarious throughout the evening, he told the crowd before going into the dramatic “The Rose,” “My wife said, ‘Don’t let him talk too much, or he’ll ruin it.’” Truth be told, it was his frequent stage banter with the crowd that showed a more human side to the man known as the Father of Goth.
Murphy threw in a three-pack of Bauhaus numbers, “King Volcano,” “Kingdom’s Coming,” and “Silent Hedges.” All showed the more eerie and gothic side of his early days.
Being that this was the 28th stop on a 30-date cross-country tour, it would have been understandable if Murphy and mates were tired as the show wound down. After exiting their set following “Gaslit” for a brief five minutes, the trio bounded back onto the stage for the encore.
Two Murphy solo efforts were sandwiched with a pair of Bauhaus numbers, “The Three Shadows, Part I” and the hauntingly good “Hollow Hills.” Murphy’s stage mates played like a possessed pair, Andrews taming his guitar with violin bow and China plucked away on his bass strings with feverish intensity.
The night concluded with “Face” from the 1989 album Dust. Murphy showed just why his performing vocals are in such demand among alternative music crowds, as he delivers the goods with without need for a bombastic finish.
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Tuesday Night: Peter Murphy at Crescent Ballroom
Should have played: Somewhat disappointing was the omission of Murphy’s most popular numbers. “Cuts You Up,” Bauhaus' “She’s In Parties,” nor “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” which he has been sporadically playing as a medley with “A Strange Kind of Love.”
The Crowd: While the grown-up '80s art/alt college set was to be expected, there was a smattering of younger folks among the sold-out crowd. Everyone behaved well and stayed calm, fitting for the seated, formal vibe of the affair.
All Night Long
Marlene Dietrich’s Favorite Poem
A Strange Kind of Love
Never Fall Out
The Three Shadows, Part 1