See my full photo set of the Bauhaus show on Flickr.
Babies born near Northampton, England in the years 1953 – 1957 were no doubt injected with some miraculous, strange substance that retards aging, causing said babies to remain utter hotties far into their late 40s and early 50s. Find me the doctors who delivered all four members of Bauhaus, and I’ll put the plastic surgeons out of business!
(Namely Peter Murphy, Daniel Ash, David J and Kevin Haskins. See also the official sites for Peter, Daniel, David, and for Kevin’s Messy Music).
To prove this theory can’t be attributed to the usual excuses, such as a Dorian Grey-style pact with the devil, observe fellow 1950s-Northampton-born comic book genius Alan Moore. Although he did play in a one-off band with David J called the Sinister Ducks, so perhaps Satanic youthfulness pacts can rub off on subsequent bandmates.
Last night, Bauhaus played the venerable Cleveland Agora. Though not their first tour since breaking up in 1983 (they also did some shows in 1998), this tour is remarkable. Unlike other bands who just won’t stop (I’m looking at you, Rolling Stones!), Bauhaus never fell prey to annual-tour-to-fill-the-coffers disease. Sure, Peter Murphy made solo albums, as did Love and Rockets (essentially Bauhaus minus Peter), but neither milked the last drop of blood from their fans. We were waiting for this tour, and it delivered.
Back in April, Bauhaus played Coachella. I get the feeling show reviewer Jonah Flicker is considerably younger than me from his statement: “Still, the surprise of the night, Bauhaus outshone many of the higher-profile acts at Coachella this year. And the competition was fierce: Wilco, Spoon, Keane, the Kills, Weezer, Coldplay…”
Excuse me? You’re comparing Weezer to Bauhaus? Weezer?!?! On what planet is Weezer higher-profile than Bauhaus? They’d sooner slap those babyfaced, fake-Elvis-Costello-glasses-wearing losers than share a stage with them. Peter Murphy makes bowel movements more interesting than Weezer. But I digress…and display my clear bias. (Hey, I’m not on the MSM payroll, I’m entitled).
Before we left for the show, my boyfriend and I shuddered: would we be the oldest people at the show? Thankfully, no. Usually, when you go see a band that you’ve loved for more than half your life, you end up surrounded by 18-year-olds yelling for the only song they know. I pictured Phantasy refugees with dyed black hair screaming for “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” until I ended up decking one or more of them. But not last night.
The band hammered their way through every back catalog-highlight you’d hope to hear them play (see set list below). Peter Murphy’s elegant voice, a voice that could read the telephone book and make it sound interesting, was in fine form.
(If this is to be believed, when Daniel encountered Peter five years after they’d first met, he suggested forming a band. “Rigging up a makeshift rehearsal space, Daniel played an Echo 12 – bar blues, while Murphy sang a series of newspaper articles.” My point, she is proven. Hand that man a telephone book and you’ve got a box set in the making).
Daniel Ash, wearing a sleeveless shirt that only served to emphasize his beautifully toned…ummm, guitar. Yes, guitar…well, let’s just say that my previous statements about aging well are only too true with Daniel Ash. Even his hair, although slightly lower than, say, Love and Rockets-era Ash, remains seriously rockstar. His playing has improved with time while retaining its rougher stylistic edges. No overly-slick production here. Same goes with David J and Kevin Haskins: by providing an absolutely solid rhythmic canvas on which Peter Murphy could paint his magnificent vocals, every song was captivating, not even a “merely average” one in the set and its two encores.
And what encores they were! Although not sung upside down like a bat, a la Coachella, Murphy managed to make even Bela extraordinary. I have heard “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” more times than I can count, and yet I was absolutely transfixed…as if it were an entirely new song they were just introducing to the crowd. That takes serious skill. Murphy has been accused of prima-donna-dom, but the man’s earned it. He’s got the chops to back it up; they all do. If you read reviews of their live discs, such as Press Eject And Give Me The Tape, it’s always noted how astonishingly close Bauhaus live versions are to their studio-born brethren…without backing tapes or the other standbys so commonly used today (Do I even have to invoke Jessica Simpson here? Or Milli Vanilli? You’ve heard it all before).
I’ve been fortunate enough to witness some really amazing concerts over the years: from Robyn Hitchcock in the acoustically-amazing chapel at Oberlin College, to last year’s Pixies reunion shows and, dare I say it? almost every single Depeche Mode show ever. However, I have never witnessed a show as impressive as this. Everything was spectacular: the venue, the lighting, the music, the band…even the fans, who were clearly enjoying themselves as much as we were. My boyfriend informed me that David Bowie once said that Bauhaus plays “Ziggy Stardust” the way he should have. To that, I have to say that Bauhaus plays entire shows the way they should be played.
Set list follows…
Bauhaus, Cleveland Agora, 19 November 2005:
Burning From the Inside
In the Flat Field
A God In An Alcove
In Fear of Fear
Terror Couple Kill Colonel
Swing the Heartache
She’s in Parties
The Passion of Lovers
Kick in the Eye
Rose Garden Funeral of Sores (John Cale cover)
Hair of the Dog
Bela Lugosi’s Dead
Slice of Life
Telegram Sam (T. Rex cover)
Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie cover)