Peter Murphy, Ours @ Urban Lounge 07.17

Posted July 22, 2013 in

Peter Murphy is looking good and playing well for being in his 50s. Photo: Mont Sherar

When I walked into the Urban Lounge, the first thing that caught my attention was the fact that I was the youngest person at this show. Fat rolling out of leather corset tops, bald men in their favorite NFL t-shirts and the ever-present, husky Gary Numan-types abounded. Yep, Utah's once-thriving industrial scene has grown up, had kids and put on a few pounds. Good on them for showing up—I hope the babysitter wasn't too pricey on a Wednesday night.

The opening band for the legendary Peter Murphy was the band Ours. Garbed in black leather, black pants, black eyeliner and dyed-black hair, I was pretty certain this group was from LA, based on their look (upon later research, I found I was right). To further taint the bias in my review, I knew I didn't like them by the end of their first song. They're a tight group—they know how perform their set list, and the founder of the group, Jimmy Gnecco, has some pipes on him, but that being said, it was not my cup of tea. All I could hear when Ours performed was a combination of HIM and Bon Jovi. It was just very ’00s post-grunge/nu-metal, Fuel or Live wrapped in the ambiance and Chris Angel. I imagine they'd fit right in somewhere on a alternative rock station that played a lot of Nickelback or Goo Goo Dolls with nothing but embroidered shirts, bandannas and soul patch butt-rock ever at every angle. I had a really difficult time listening to Ours, so I spaced out for the last two or three songs of the set. I give them credit as great performers, just not my genre of music.
Then the concert got real for me.
Allow me to give a bit of a precursor to why I love the music of Bauhaus/Peter Murphy more than most people in their mid-20s. To begin with the most obvious point, I grew up listening to Bauhaus a lot. My mother was a participant in Utah's then-thriving industrial/goth scene in the late ’80s, and one of the things I inherited a strong background of industrial music. Bands like Skinny Puppy, Revolting Cocks and KMFDM were part of my playtime music, so I've had an instinctual draw to industrial music from the beginning.
After a few years of growing up, I forgot industrial music. I began listening to music outside of my parents’ collection, and it consisted of Third Eye Blind and other pop-centric rock n’ roll. What saved me from being forever doomed to listening to 311 and other flaccid rock bands was my uncle. He's always been there to introduce me to music that I might have missed, and though there was never a “sit down and listen” moment, I distinctly remember being 13 years old, playing NASCAR Racing on his N64 and asking “What band are we listening to?”
“I really like this.” My fate as a lerpy, teenage goth was sealed on that day.
Fast forward 12 years and I'm sitting in a crowd of sweaty midlife crises as Mr. Murphy ambled onto the raised platform and, from what I could tell, looks pretty good for being in his 50s. He kicked the show off with “King Volcano,” a semi-acoustic song about whothefuckknows with a strong Bowie connection. Hearing 200 people shout those meaningless lyrics, “King Volcano is clean. King Volcano is clean,” put my hairs on point. The haunting dissidence and timbre in Murphy's voice hasn't withered in all these years of addiction, screaming and abuse. The man still sounds like it's 1980.
He played through parts of Mask and Burning From the Inside, but focused on the groundbreaking album, In The Flat Field. And then it happened. They started out in the staccato claps and snare taps of the ever-classic “Bela Lugosi's Dead.” Murphy revealed his age by putting on his reading glasses and tapping the keyboard. Picks scrapped against fret boards and nickel-plated strings while the reverb was turned up all the way. Murphy shook his head and put up his hands and gave the cut motion.
What the fuck?!
“I'm sorry guys, I can't do it—this keyboard is shit.”
A collective grown bellowed from the crowd. I've only seen Youtube videos of this being performed live—hearing this song is a birthright of sorts. This is the song that inspired the Palahniuk classic Haunted, the song that got so many to start and end bands. This is the song I bribed the DJ with a Cherry Pepsi to play at my Junior High School dance. I had to hear it.
After giving the audience a chance to vent, the band broke into “Double Dare” and everything was forgotten. All of a sudden, the middle of the crowd began to dance in the old-time goth fashion: pretending to be smoke rising is how I always saw it. It was never my thing.
Anyway, as the concert moved forward, he played the beloved song from his solo career, “Strange Kind of Love.” He surprised me personally because he played “Stigma Martyr,” a song that he had given up playing after his conversion to Islam. The band walked offstage and the crowd kept trying to chant “PE-TER! PE-TER!” but it was pretty fucking hot and it was getting pretty late. You got to give these Gen-Xers some credit. The band walked back onstage—this time, Mr. Murphy had changed into a sweater, which seemed counterintuitive. If my memory serves me right, they played “The Spy In The Cab,” but stripped down from the original, heavy-synth version. Mr. Murphy thanked the audience and it happened again. The echoing taps and creeks followed by a sluggish bass line. “White on white, translucent black capes …” Internally, I freaked out. Externally, I kept it cool. It’s just one of those songs that I always wanted so see live, and never thought I would. The song ended and I got to fist bump Mr. Murphy. No biggie.
Peter Murphy is looking good and playing well for being in his 50s. Photo: Mont Sherar