Peter Murphy: The Orange Peel 3-29-11

Peter Murphy Live 3-27-11 © RJ Images Photography

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.

– 30 –

* Actually, there’s no dry ice left – Sisters of Mercy have used it all up!

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6 Responses to Peter Murphy: The Orange Peel 3-29-11

  1. Echorich says:

    I saw Murphy a few nights earlier in St. Pete.
    Yes the opening act was completely camp, and no one, including the singer, got it!
    I don’t think I have missed a single Murphy or Bauhaus reunion tour and I have actually yet to be disappointed. Yes he has found the gift of gab the past two tours – in 2009 in Tampa he called the audience to the stage, answered questions about 4 songs in and actually took requests. His band may rock hard, but they are tight and know probably all the music.
    I was able to catch him going into the soundcheck quite by accident after arriving way too early for the show that night and stopped him to wish him well with the show. I also made a comment about Mick Karn which kind of stopped him and we spent 5 minutes or so discussing him. At the end I said, half embarrassed, that I hoped he would perform Marlene Dietrich’s Favorite Poem from Deep as it reminds me of Dali’s Car – the group he and Karn created after the bust up of both Japan and Bauhaus. He put on a big smile and said he certainly would – and he did.
    I really enjoy the two songs which have been released from the upcoming album.
    I think what really strikes me about Murphy now is that he takes his music very seriously and his legacy with a very amusing grain of salt. You mentioned Eddie Izzard and I thought of Julian Clary of Joan Collins Fan Club who took his goth comic romp to the masses in the late 80’s and early 90’s.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – I’m certainly anticipating that Dali’s Car 2 EP and eagerly await its release. The first Dali’s Car project certainly rocked my world big time! Ah, you mentioned Julian Clary. Were you aware that he was a false member of Thinkman? If you don’t know Thinkman, you must hear “The Formula!” It’s the apex of high tech synth rock. Rupert Hine is a genius.


  2. jt says:

    Saw the final show of the tour in Chicago last night.

    Yes, Livan was unintentionally hilarious. Ugh.

    Pete started 45 minutes late due to tech issues on stage, and there were some other sound problems during the show.

    Murphy was as funny as you say, so much warmer and so much less theatrical and stoic than any of the other times I have seen him (solo a few times late 80s/early 90s, solo once around 2003-ish, and two Bauhaus reunions – one awesome and one shitty). Being the last show of the tour, he was all sentimental, and brought all of the crew guys out for hugs. Awww….
    I liked his long rant about how he is not goth (“I’ve been telling you all that since 1981!”), and about how his dark lyrical subjects have always been “therapy”.

    He DID do a lot of world-music influenced work on the last tour I caught, it was really interesting stuff definitely inspired by his living in Turkey. Check his 2002 disc Dust if you’re interested in that stuff, it’s not bad. None of that material showed up this show, probably due to not having the resources to bring those instruments or players with him.

    The new material is, as you say, sort of basic riff-rock, surprising in its simplicity. A result of the influence of his band of young rockers, I’d say. He was saying during his many bouts of babble between songs, that he is moving to America. Hmmm…

    He did lots of material from his older records in Chicago – but sadly nothing from StWFTFA, or from Love Hysteria, my fave of his records. He did three Bauhaus tunes (Silent Hedges[!], and She’s in Parties), FIVE from Deep (Marlene Dietrich, Crystal Wrists, Cuts You Up, Roll Call, Strange Kind Of Love/Bela), and a bunch from Unshattered and Cascade (Subway and Huuvola). So, a fair bit of catalogue material, although I could have heard plenty of stuff from the first two discs very happily…. but I can’t complain because I heard that stuff live pre-1990 when it was fresh….


    • postpunkmonk says:

      JT – Sounds like you got a better show than we did. I am thinking about the show a lot, just because it was so interesting to see him let his guard down and not particularly care. Ironically, I like Peter Murphy more now since I have an idea of him as an individual, even when the music wasn’t working for me. In other Murphy news, the Mick Karn website says that Dali’s Car 2 will the a 4 track EP as that’s all Mick was able to do in the time he had. Sign me up!


  3. jt says:

    Read somewhere that there are scraps of Mickness out there that Pete may mine to make DC2 a 5-song EP, rather than four.

    Have to admit that I was hoping to hear a DC tune at Pete’s gig, but I am positive that his live bass player could not have summoned any reasonable facsimile of Karn’s awesomeness on stage.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      jt – Well, if Dave Formula can do it with John McGeoch on his solos album from rehearsal tapes, I don’t see why not for DC2. Can any bass player summon a facsimile of Karn’s awesomeness on stage? I remember the first time I was watching “Oil On Canvas” I didn’t notice any other members of the band.


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