I was on the fence about this one. I almost skipped it. I’ve seen Peter Murphy a number of times. He’s never been bad. But he can be great. He also has off nights. Seen a few of those too. I’ve also been fortunate enough to catch Bauhaus for the last few reunions, as well as Murphy’s last Bauhaus-centric tour. For those not in-the-know, he was their enigmatic frontman, before they disbanded, and he went solo.
I was too young to catch the seminal post-punk/goth-band in their heyday, back in the late ’70s/early ’80s. But their ’98/’05 reunion tours more than scratched that particular itch. This time around, Murphy was again performing another Bauhaus-curated set. So like I said, been there, done that, and came damn close to letting this one slip by.
Thankfully, I came to my senses, and bought a ticket anyway. Because this tour promised something special. For starters, Murphy’s show, titled the “Ruby Anniversary” (that’s 40 years, to you and me), was focused on Bauhaus’ 1980 4AD Records debut, “In the Flat Field,” performed in its entirety. That alone is pretty darn cool.
But the really kicker was the inclusion of original bassist David J, joining in the resurrection festivities. Two out of four original members ain’t bad. Guitarist Daniel Ash and drummer Kevin Haskins are off revisiting Tones on Tail and Love and Rockets material in their new band Poptone, so they weren’t present. But Murphy’s longtime guitarist Mark Gemini Thwaite, along with veteran drummer Marc Slutsky, filled those gaps quite skillfully, navigating the trickier rhythms and asymmetrical riffs.
I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Murphy this passionate in eons. I mean, at 61, he’s still got that fierce intensity and unmistakable bellow in his deep domineering vocals, a little rougher around the edges, but clearly the same force who commanded Bauhaus so many years ago. And having David J there … his low-end bass-craft is such an integral foundation to Bauhaus’ sound. His presence reminds you of what’s lacking, when Murphy’s tackled this material in the past. As good as it was then, there’s no substitute for an original player.
“In the Flat Field” is a raucous art-rock splatter of experimental cacophony. It’s a noisy, menacing collection of songs, searing and serrated, enveloped in dark intensity and spellbinding shades. It’s one of the albums that kick-started the whole gothic-rock movement, and laid the groundwork for what is now post-punk. To say it’s influential would be an understatement. So yeah, witnessing this one in all its wicked entirety is akin to a bucket-list moment in the annals of alternative music.
And like I said, Murphy, David J, and co. really pulled out all the stops to do this material justice. Not only was it flawlessly and faithfully executed, it also possessed a renewed vigor of bombastic power and relentless fervor, a potent and passionate reminder of its relevance, both past and present. This definitely (and thankfully) was not nostalgia for its own sake. I could go into devilish details, regarding “In the Flat Field.” But I think I’ll let the spirited performance speak for itself. Plus, you can always check out the album on your streaming platform of choice. And there’s a link at the end of this post, as well.
The six clips that follow feature most of the live performance of “In the Flat Field,” seven of the nine tracks in total. I had to take some breaks, so “Small Talk Stinks” and “Nerves” didn’t make the cut. But I’ve got all the others, including my two favorites, the atonal screech and menace of “Stigmata Martyr,” and the relentless roll and rumble of the album’s title track, “In the Flat Field.”
Peter Murphy & David J perform Bauhaus’ “Double Dare” and “In the Flat Field” @ the Novo on 02.28.19.
Peter Murphy & David J perform Bauhaus’ “A God in the Alcove” @ the Novo on 02.28.19.
Peter Murphy & David J perform Bauhaus’ “Dive” @ the Novo on 02.28.19.
Peter Murphy & David J perform Bauhaus’ “Spy in the Cab” @ the Novo on 02.28.19.
Peter Murphy & David J perform Bauhaus’ “St. Vitus Dance” @ the Novo on 02.28.19.
Peter Murphy & David J perform Bauhaus’ “Stigmata Martyr” @ the Novo on 02.28.19.
The show didn’t stop there. The original release of “In the Flat Field” times out at a lean 38.45 minutes, which would make for a rather short set. There’s subsequent reissues and remasters that nearly double that runtime, but Murphy stuck to the source, leaving room for an abundance of back catalogue riches to ensue.
I’ve read that he’s been mixing it up for the latter half, featuring different Bauhaus classics for different performances. There’s definitely a core group of selects, like the dub-sullen “She’s in Parties” and the definitive goth anthem “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” Although, a quick scan of previous performances reveals curious deviations, which I won’t go into here. That said, there’s a plethora of moody material to choose from, all good. And considering the Novo show marked the tour’s conclusion, it goes without saying that hopes were high.
In addition to the aforementioned, I’ve got a few others to share. Two of the more melodic acoustic numbers kicked off the second set, the medieval whirligig “King Volcano” and the near-psychedelic “Kingdom’s Coming,” both from ’83 album “Burning from the Inside.”
Peter Murphy & David J perform Bauhaus’ “King Volcano” @ the Novo on 02.28.19.
Peter Murphy & David J perform Bauhaus’ “Kingdom’s Coming” @ the Novo on 02.28.19.
“Silent Hedges” feels like a precursor to “Kingdom’s Coming.” But quickly shifts to the shadows, replete with vexed menace and dire urgency. It’s definitely in the dark wheelhouse of gothic leanings. “Silent Hedges” comes from the ’82 album “The Sky’s Gone Out.”
Peter Murphy & David J perform Bauhaus’ “Silent Hedges” @ the Novo on 02.28.19.
The aforementioned goth opus “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” … I’ll just say that David J’s presence here can’t be overstated enough. His bass feels like evil reggae, or a dark deep dub.
Peter Murphy & David J perform Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” @ the Novo on 02.28.19.
The same goes for “She’s in Parties,” another entry from “Burning from the Inside.”
Peter Murphy & David J perform Bauhaus’ “She’s in Parties” @ the Novo on 02.28.19.
I think these next two might be some of my current favorites, both from the ’81 album “Mask.”
“Kick in the Eye” is almost funky, skewing more upbeat in rhythm, deceptively sound-positive, if you don’t take its title into consideration. It’s downright danceable, and if I recall correctly, provided many a goth dervish at weekly SoCal gatherings, like Helter Skelter, Scream, or Club Fuck, all back in the day.
“The Passion of Lovers” steers back to the Bauhaus gloom and doom charm, stoking the pessimistic fire with an irritable intensity and an unsettling drive. This one burns brightly, even if the shade is black.
Peter Murphy & David J perform Bauhaus’ “Kick in the Eye” @ the Novo on 02.28.19.
Peter Murphy & David J perform Bauhaus’ “The Passion of Lovers” @ the Novo on 02.28.19.
From what I can tell, we were one of two stateside shows fortunate enough to get the one-two punch closer of “Telegram Sam” and “Ziggy Stardust.” Both are covers, the former from T-Rex, later appearing on reissues of “In the Flat Field,” and the latter from the one and only David Bowie, who’s single has been an encore staple of Bauhaus, as well as Murphy’s solo performances.
Peter Murphy & David J perform Bauhaus’ “Telegram Sam” and “Ziggy Stardust” @ the Novo on 02.28.19.
Lastly, here’s a playlist of the full set, with the original track listing of “In the Flat Field,” followed by all the great extras from the second half of the “Ruby Anniversary.” There’s one additional track called “Adrenalin” that I missed in my recordings. It’s one that was released during Bauhaus’ second reunion in ’08. It’s a bit more conventional for these guys, but a catalogue curiosity, nonetheless.
I’m not sure if Murphy’s ever going to top this Bauhaus re-visitation, unless of course, he gets the full band back together. Either way, I’m certainly glad I motivated myself to attend this Bauhaus retrospective. “In the Flat Field” was brilliantly realized. The additional tracks were everything I wanted, including some I never expected. And David J’s return to Bauhaus bass-lore is a masterstroke in stage casting. I think if I skipped the “Ruby Celebration,” and a fellow fan showed me what I missed, I’d be kicking myself in the eye for quite some time.