I haven’t done one of these flashback concerts in a while. I’ve had too many current ones to prep and post, and I’m still behind on a few of them. But tonight marks the reunion of seminal alternative goth rock artist Bauhaus, after a near decade-long absence – 13 years, if you include live performances. They’re playing the Hollywood Palladium this eve. for the first of three reunion shows. So far, they’re just one-offs, with no future tour dates scheduled. That could all change. But for now, it’s an exclusively special event.
Plus, frontman Peter Murphy recently recovered from a heart attack in August. So if that ain’t a call to action, I’m not sure what is. There’s a sense of urgency to this return. And for a band that’s been on and off for over 40 years, practically having invented the goth-rock movement, and influencing so many, many alternative and indie artists (see Massive Attack‘s cover of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”), this is a reunion not to be missed. It could even be their last.
Thus, it seemed appropriate to mark the occasion with some celebratory remembrances. The most obvious (and current) one is from earlier this year, when Murphy, who regularly tours and continues to perform Bauhaus material with this solo outfit, joined forces with original bassist David J to cover the classic Bauhaus album “In the Flat Field” in its entirety, followed by a popular selection of other catalogue favs. That show was at the Novo in DTLA in March, and you can check that out here.
I wish I had some Love and Rockets footage to showcase. They’re essentially Bauhaus without Peter Murphy, meaning David J, with remaining members vocalist/guitarist/saxophonist Daniel Ash and drummer Kevin Haskins. The music’s a lot different, way more psychedelic post-rock, with some later acoustic and electronic offerings in their latter days. But that trio hasn’t toured together since ’08, so unfortunately, that can’t happen.
Combing through my archives, though, I do have the next best thing. A few years back in ’17, Ash and Haskins, along with Haskins’ daughter Diva Dompé on bass, decided to form Poptone, an oddly named offshoot that focused on performing vintage Love and Rockets, as well as Tones on Tail, material live.
For those that may not remember, Tones on Tail was a side project from Ash and Haskins, along with collaborator (and former Bauhaus roadie) Glenn Campling. Their music was moodier in different ways, still shadowy dark, with a bit of a chill, but also leaning towards twisted pop and macabre dance in smoky black textures of blues velvet cabaret.
Tones on Tail disbanded in ’84, when they performed a brief tour of the U.S., and immediately formed Love and Rockets with David J, who also lent vocals. I was too young to catch those Tones of Tails shows, and probably too young to be listening to that stuff anyway. But I did, and took an immediate liking to all of it. It was my way of rebelling against the once dominant “Top 40” singles that ruled mainstream radio, when that was still a thing.
Thankfully, I was able to witness Love and Rockets many times on stage, even getting to interview them a few times in my early music journalism days. I’d share those articles, if I still had them. Unfortunately, I’ve no idea whether or where those transcripts exist anymore. Guess that will have to live on in my hazy memory of youth.
As you can probably guess, Tones on Tail material hasn’t been performed live in many, many years. So the existence of Poptone for that single fact alone is worth the price of attention. And with two of the original members together, it’s practically a bonified Tones on Tail reunion.
Tones on Tail only released one studio album to their credit, “Pop,” which came out in ’84. But they’ve also got a handful of singles, EPs, and compilations that reconfigure and reassemble a lot of this loose material.
Below are five tracks from the era, as performed by Poptone at the Cloak and Dagger Festival back in Oct. of ’17. All of them are pretty much classics in the canon, “Go,” “Christian Says,” and “O.K. This is the Pops,” as well as some of their slower, moodier offerings, “Movement of Fear” and the reimagining of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel.” On these latter ones, we even get to see Ash break out the sax for the ominous bits.
Check them out.
Poptone perform Tones on Tail’s “Go” at the Cloak & Dagger Festival at the Globe Theatre on 10.21.17.
Poptone perform Tones on Tail’s cover of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” at the Cloak & Dagger Festival at the Globe Theatre on 10.21.17.
Poptone perform Tones on Tail’s “OK This is the Pops” at the Cloak & Dagger Festival at the Globe Theatre on 10.21.17.
Poptone perform Tones on Tail’s “Movement of Fear” at the Cloak & Dagger Festival at the Globe Theatre on 10.21.17.
Poptone perform Tones on Tail’s “Christian Says” at the Cloak & Dagger Festival at the Globe Theatre on 10.21.17.
The show itself was musically intermingled, alternating between selections from Tones on Tail and Love and Rockets. I’ve chosen to group them separately, since it’s easier to discuss.
I really, really love the Love and Rockets material. And I wish we got more of it during this particular performance. They’ve been known to feature other catalogue favorites, alongside what I’ve included below. I’m not sure what the criteria was for the setlist. But Poptone managed to pick a lot of the good ones … just not all of them.
My only reservation is that David J’s vocals are sorely missed on some of this material, particularly “Love Me.” Ash and J had a way of alternating vocals, not quite sing-song, yet fluidly symbiotic. They produced an organic harmony between them, which is one of characteristics that made Love and Rockets so unique. Diva Dompé fills in for these parts, and does a decent job. But it just sounds a little off, and somewhat different, from the originals.
That said, musically, this stuff sounds fantastic. “Mirror People” still possesses the driving fuzzed feedback menace, and “No Big Deal” lets Haskins really shine with a steampunk-driven piston percussion. “An American Dream” still feels as politically relevant and ironic as ever. And they even included a cover of Adam Ant’s “Physical (You’re So),” which was often showcased in many Love and Rockets’ live shows.
All of these, as well as the aforementioned “Love Me,” are featured below.
Poptone perform Love & Rockets’ “An American Dream” at the Cloak & Dagger Festival at the Globe Theatre on 10.21.17.
Poptone perform Love & Rockets’ “Love Me” at the Cloak & Dagger Festival at the Globe Theatre on 10.21.17.
Poptone perform Love & Rockets’ “Mirror People” at the Cloak & Dagger Festival at the Globe Theatre on 10.21.17.
Poptone perform Love & Rockets’ “No Big Deal” at the Cloak & Dagger Festival at the Globe Theatre on 10.21.17.
Poptone perform Love & Rockets’ cover of Adam Ant’s “Physical (You’re So)” at the Cloak & Dagger Festival at the Globe Theatre on 10.21.17.
That’s all I’ve got for the flashback footage from Poptone’s reminiscence of post-Bauhaus work. Of course, I wouldn’t expect any of tonight’s Bauhaus reunion performance to include any of these tracks … nor would I want them to. But maybe it might spur one more Love and Rockets return in the future, provided these shows work out, and all the members enjoy playing together again. I’m guessing we might get a Bauhaus tour first. But I can dream.
In the meantime, here’s Poptone’s setlist from the Cloak and Dagger Festival at the Globe Theatre on 10.21.17. As I said, I really wish they included some additional Love and Rockets material, like “Haunted When the Minutes Drag” and their cover of The Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion.” They’ve performed both at other shows. Sadly, they couldn’t squeeze them into their festival timeslot here. But again, perhaps a reunion …
Anyway, enjoy this flashback setlist. Also, there will be coverage on this Bauhaus reunion in the coming weeks. That’s all for now.
Tones on Tail:
Love and Rockets: