My wife and I took in a Peter Murphy show last night. The last time that we had seen him solo was 1995 at The Edge in Orlando. We saw the 1999-2000 Bauhaus tour and that was it. He’d not been within bombing distance of us since then. I have heard nothing that he’s done after the disappointing “Holy Smoke” album in 1992 [apart from some “Cascade” material on that live ’95 show]. When I saw he was appearing at The Orange Peel, I mentioned it my wife, who always thought highly of him, so she quickly got tickets.
We arrived at showtime on the dot as the opener, Livan immediately began at the crack of 9PM. He was highly derivative of Murphy albeit with more testosterone. Think Sisters of Mercy… minus the dry ice*. It didn’t drive me from the room, but my wife found it unintentionally hilarious. A campy version of “Venus In Furs” only served to remind me that the last time I’d heard someone perform that track it was Mr. John Cale himself playing it on that very stage and Livan was no John Cale. After 8-9 songs, the opening set was over, and we waited for Murphy to begin. My wife got off of her barstool and made her way to the front of the stage in anticipation.
Murphy began some time after 10PM. I had been anticipating that the older, wiser Peter Murphy would be doing more sedate, darkly beautiful music, perhaps reflective of his Turkish environs with a world music twist, as it were. What we got instead were a band much younger than he was playing amped up music that was neither as good as Bauhaus in rocker mode nor his fertile mid-period of soaring ballads. My favorite of his albums was his first solo record, “Should The World Fail To Fall Apart,” which has complex, subtle music and exotic instrumentation that I find highly rewarding. Most of his songs this night were not that by a long shot.
What saved the evening for us was his absolutely hilarious banter with the audience! Both my wife and I independently found ourselves thinking “Eddie Izzard had better watch his rear view mirror!” Unexpectedly, he was hilariously and self-deprecatingly mocking about his reputation as an “enigma” and certainly his weight [admittedly, he now sports a slight paunch] and thought nothing of shaking hands with anyone who stretched their hands out and talking with the audience for long stretches at a time. Every other time I’d seen Peter Murphy live was watching a professional in action. He hit his marks and delivered, but you didn’t ever get a sense of the man himself. Not this time! I now know Peter Murphy is a laff riot with reams of Wildean wit overflowing the coffers of his soul. Bonus points to him for not shaving his head as he now has a small bald spot in back [unlike 90% of his audience who were predominantly the dreaded Bald Guys®].
Just as the end of his set was beginning to grate, the set stopped and his encore was a relief, with no thundering drums and some acoustic guitar easing up on us. I had imagined that he would have advanced beyond aggressive rock by now, but alas, no. It was there that any pre-1992 material made its appearance. It sounded great and really put most of the concert to shame. He opened with an interesting ac-cappella song that was a hidden track on his “Recall” EP, for he told us so. He did an intriguing medley of “Strange Kind Of Love” with “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” that surprisingly worked well. “Cuts You Up” and “Indigo Eyes” are still sterling numbers.
In summary, it was not quite a disaster. We were not quite driven from the venue as we had been with the infamous Adrian Belew wank-fest at the same venue several years ago. We lasted only 40 or so minutes that night of testosterone abuse. Adrian still sets holds the record for artist disappointment. True, we were considering leaving near the end. I was waiting to see what happened after what was the final song of the set before acting, but I was ready to go, and my wife was more than ready. Was it worth the sacrifice of our sleep? No, but I reflect back on the night thinking “what a hilarious fellow that Peter Murphy is – who knew?” But unless we get advance word that he’s touring with a Gamelan Orchestra, or string quartet [which frankly, is where I expected him to be by now] we’ll smile and pass.
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* Actually, there’s no dry ice left – Sisters of Mercy have used it all up!