Saturday, October 22, 2005

Undead Undead Undead

Today's title comes from a lyric in the classic goth anthem "Bela Lugosi is Dead", by the proto-goth band Bauhaus. Formed in England in 1978, they released 4 albums and a bunch of singles, many of which charted in the UK and made them one of the most influential rock bands in recent history. They appeared in the Tony Scott vampire romance The Hunger (with David Bowie, Susan Sarandon & Catherine Deneuve), playing this trademark theme song in the nightclub opening. As is so often the case, the candle that burns brightest burns half as long, and the act broke up in 1983, the year before I got into them. I did have the fortune of seeing 3/4 of the band in their incarnation as Love & Rockets, once in 1986 opening for Siouxie & the Banshees, and once in 1987 with Jane's Addiction opening for them. But I was always kind of sorry I never had the chance to see the original Bauhaus do their thing onstage.

Last night, I got that chance.

I will start by saying the show probably lacked the intensity of drug-fueled, frenetic early '80s goth wackiness (as evident in a 1982 concert video I have), however I personally found it far more satisfying that all four guys are much better musicians, play more tightly and rock HARDER now than they ever did previously. I kept forgetting that all these guys are pushing 50, and with the exception of vocalist Peter Murphy (who has never exactly presented the picture of health), none of them look like they've aged in 20 years.

The show kicked off with guitarist Daniel Ash striding onto the stage in big boots and a sleeveless leather trenchcoat, with his mirror-finish electric (one of his more famous Love & Rockets axes), cranking out the riffs to "Burning From the Inside", the title track to their final studio album. He was joined by Murphy, who growled out the words like they'd just been written. They were then joined by bassist David J. and drummer Kevin Haskins, two brothers who form one of the tightest rhythm sections in rock. The lights were VERY well done, combining pin spots, floating follow spots, red and white strobes and yes, even rotating gobos! The sound was LOUD, which is why I brought latex earplugs for my crew. With the plugs, the sound was good, and David's bass kept vibrating my ribcage. It tickled.

Murphy no longer swings from curtains and twirls like a demented pixie. But he's still rail thin and can strike those pensive poses with the best of them. Heck, aside from Bowie, this guy invented quite a few of those poses the youngsters use today. His thinning hair is now bleached blonde, and he sported a black 1930s classic look - slacks and a high cut jacket. Ash looks pretty buff - I guess living in LA has given him some biceps and a bit of a tan. J. still has the blonde bowl cut and shades, dressed in a black turtleneck and trousers with his ubiquitous fretless bass. Haskins was hard to see buried in his drum kit, but my field glasses revealed the same intense, almost eerie concentration in his intricate drumming.

I can't recall the exact order of the set list, but they did at least the following (forgive me if I've missed any): "Burning From the Inside", "God in an Alcove", "The Man With X-Ray Eyes", "In Fear of Fear" (which had Ash running around the stage abusing a saxophone), "Kick in the Eye", "Hair of the Dog", "Terror Couple Kill Colonel", "Hollow Hills", "Silent Hedges", "In the Flat Field", "Stigmata Martyr", "She's in Parties", "Rose Garden Funeral of Sores", "The Passion of Lovers", "Swing the Heartache", and "Dark Entries". For their first encore, they did "Slice of Life" and "Telegram Sam", and their final encore consisted of all 9+ minutes of "Bela Lugosi is Dead".

My only disappointments were that they didn't do "Spirit", my favorite track of theirs, nor did they do their famous cover of David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust". But I have to say I was satisfied with the range of material from across their four albums. And I was struck by, despite how minimalist their arrangements always were, how intricate their music turns out to be. And, if I can pretend to be Stephen Colbert for a moment, possessed of some serious "rockitude" (which is a combination of rocking and attitude).

The Paramount is an old 1920s movie palace, and I've had the good fortune to have seen Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins there. I went to the show with LA, Caleb and Miriah. LA had heard of Bauhaus previously, and schooled herself with a crash course via compilation CD and former goth friends. Caleb, 22, was born the year they split up, but has felt their influence in the alternative rock that he grew up with (he also has a healthy respect for antiquity, which is why I keep him around). Miriah, 18, is a rabid Bowie fan, and went into this pretty much blind, except for said compilation CD and some historical perspective from me. All four of us left happy. The audience was full of 30 and 40-something goths and former goths (art rockers, shoegazers, whatever), and you could tell they all had a relaxed vibe and sense of humor about their history. The T-shirt kiosk took credit cards, there was no opening act, the band went on at 8:10 and played for 2 hours. We were home by 10:30.

It was the perfect rock show for Creepy Old Guy and His Friends. I just wish Sam could have been there to see it with me.


Waist High said...

The show in Portland was amazing. Best concert I have ever been to, and I have been to alot of concerts. AMAZING!

Daniel G said...

We got tix for Seattle because they took forever to announce the Portland show. First time to the Paramount and what a show! They were tight and it was the 2nd time we saw Peter this year (May at the Roseland in Portland).
The set sure was early and short, my watch said between 9:45-9:50p when the lights came back on. The crowd was great, though I passed on a t-shirt.
Feel sorry for the casual arrivals who thought "well the show will probably start at 9:00p."
Of all the classic stars touring right now (Stones, McCartney), I'd rather see Peter, Daniel, David, and Kevin.
Good review!

tbone said...

Wow, thanks for the feedback, guys! It's always nice to know folks are reading the crap I write. ;)

I called my buddy in SF just as he was coming out of the Warfield show, and he said they did Ziggy as one of their encores. Damnit!