Eyes On Film
Islington Academy, London
Wednesday June 19 2013
We're all slightly surprised that Peter
Murphy has made
it to London tonight, after his bizarre incident
on a Californian freeway. That kind of escapade would probably count
as fun and games if a twentysomething punker did it, but - let's face
it - it looks a bit sad when it's a mid-fifties elder statesman
of rock at the centre of the kerfuffle. What price your rock 'n' roll credibility
when the official police description of your demeanour is 'confused', eh,
Still, the show must go on. Tonight, Peter Murphy plays a set of Bauhaus songs to mark the band's 35th anniversary. It must be said that what we'd really like to see is Bauhaus playing a set of Bauhaus songs to mark the band's 35th anniversary, but it seems that particular train left the station a long time ago.
Peter Murphy in solo guise is the nearest thing we're going to get, and the Glendale Police Department would probably tell us we're lucky to get that much.
First, let's dispose of the support band. Eyes On Film play moody, landfill-ish indie rock that isn't actively offensive, but doesn't inspire any real engagement, either.
The songs rise in neat, well-crafted crescendos; the singer croons and mumbles. It's all done competently enough, but I can't help feeling that Eyes On Film are less of a band, more of a marketing concept. Someone, somewhere, identified a gap in the market between Kings Of Leon and the Arctic Monkeys, and Eyes On Film are the musical Polyfilla.
Before the main man arrives, we're treated to a
video trailer for Peter Murphy's new solo album. Noirish images unfurl
on a biggish screen, and exerpts from the album boom through the PA.
On this evidence, it seems Peter Murphy has embraced his inner AOR power
balladeer - it all sounds smoothly portentious, the kind of thing that
gets taken very seriously by Rolling Stone magazine.
Personally, I like to keep things a bit more punk rock, which means it's just as well that tonight Pete is bringing on the Bauhaus.
"I'm from Northampton. I don't give a shit," remarks Peter Murphy, with an unrepentant grin. He doesn't mention his little run-in with the cops, but something's put him in a damn-the-torpedoes mood. He's upbeat and energetic and hurls himself at the Bauhaus back catalogue as if it's Northampton Roadmenders in 1979, and he's a teenage tyro with everything to prove.
The band make a reasonable fist of the songs, too, although it's always obvious that they're not actually Bauhaus. The absence of Daniel Ash's guitar is particularly noticeable.
But Pete works the stage like the shameless showbiz trouper he is, and while there is never any doubt that this is a solo show rather than a Bauhaus show, the combination of Pete's full-on verve and the undeniable quality of the songs means that this one was never going to flop.
'Double Dare' is like a power-sander applied directly to the brain; 'In The Flat Field' has all its teeth-clenched tension present and correct.
Peter bathes himself in light from a hand-held flourescent tube fior 'Boys' - a nod in the direction of the art-effects of Bauhaus days. 'Kick In The Eye' is a brutal funk-monster, the song easily strong enough to withstand the spectacle of some authentic Murphy dad-dancing.
Then an interlude, in which Pete takes time out to perform one of his own songs - "Although they're all my songs," he's quick to assert, although I wonder what Daniel Ash, David J and Kevin Haskins would have to say about that. But 'Strange Kind Of Love', wistful and acoustic, hits the spot.
It's followed in short order by a stripped-down, economy version of 'Bela Lugosi's Dead', the band keeping the rhythmn going while Pete, suddenly bespectacled and boffinish, applies an ersatz dub-effect from a small black box. It's an oddity in a set which is otherwise runs the gamut of rock dynamics - but then, 'Bela' always was an odd tangent, a defiantly atypical song that somehow became the defining element of the Bauhaus songbook.
We get all the hits. 'Lagartija Nick' crops up, impromptu, after a voice from the crowd shouts for it; 'She's In Parties' slides into view like a tuxedo-clad lounge lizard at a cocktail party.
And, as the big finish, 'Ziggy Stardust' - the biggest hit Bauhaus ever had, and a curiosity in a way. The best-known Bauhaus song is of course one of the best-known David Bowie songs. It's odd that it became the all-purpose grand finale for both Bauhaus and now Peter Murphy - because granting someone else's song such prominence almost amounts to a tacit acceptance that the original material isn't quite up to the job. A bizarre stance when you've got the likes of 'Dark Entries' and 'The Passion Of Lovers' in the ammo store.
Still, tonight, 'Ziggy' comes roaring out of the traps like a racing dragon, and I'm sure nobody in the venue - not the crowd, and not even Peter Murphy himself, who gives it the works - is bothered about the whys and wherefores. But it's ironic that the ultimate celebration of 35 years of Bauhaus should be a 42 year old Bowie song.
The crowd roars; Peter Murphy takes a bow. The old trouper still has his chops, and he's definitely got the songs. And if certain aspects of the Peter Murphy story get a little like a soap opera at times - well, what the hell. Tell this to the cops: he's from Northampton. He doesn't give a shit.