Billed with the snappy title Peter Murphy 40 Years Of Bauhaus Ruby Celebration with David J, the former Bauhaus frontman and bass player return to Northampton for a homecoming gig, having not played the town since, well, Sunday night. But before that, Murphy had last appeared here in 1986, so a night of his band’s music is indeed A Very Big Deal.
But before the pair take to the stage, here is Thomas Truax, U.S. solo artist extraordinaire, who has just released his ninth solo album, All That Heaven Allows, and treats the already packed room to a half hour of off the wall renditions of his catalogue, including a song performed while walking through the audience with an acoustic guitar, and last but absolutely not least, a song played on his home made instrument, The Hornicator, while wearing glasses with spinning coloured discs on the eyes. Just your typical Thursday night in Northampton, perhaps. Despite his being just about as far as you could possibly get on the musical spectrum away from the night’s headliners, he is greeted with warm applause and genuine appreciation. He even gets considerable calls for an encore.
Also along for the ride are Desert Mountain Tribe, who trade in smart, early Cult-inspired fare, and on paper are far more suited to the bill. The band turn in a formidable 40-minute set and also get an excellent reception.
All this, though, is merely an appetiser for an evening with Peter and David, and their band, who consist of Mark Gemini Thwaite on guitar and Marc Slutsky on drums, in lieu of Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins respectively from the original Bauhaus line-up.
The four plough straight into a whole-album-in-order onslaught of Bauhaus’ 1980 debut In The Flat Field which sounds absolutely MIGHTY from start to finish. It’s a wonderfully dark, compelling record and it proves, if any proof were needed, that Murphy and J are in the form of their lives; the former prowling the stage and delivering startlingly powerful vocals, the latter seemingly happy to be (relatively) out of the spotlight, providing thundering bass hidden behind shades and under a hat.
Peter Murphy is still every inch the icon – his exceptional stage presence means that all eyes are on him, those 80s cheekbones still very much present and correct. It appears initially that there will be no dialogue with the audience, such is the intensity of the performance, but later on he will speak fondly of missing band members Ash and Haskins (David J’s brother), albeit stressing his respect for their replacements on stage tonight, the two Marc/ks. ‘Small Talk Stinks’ recalls The Fall, which David J’s bassline and Murphy’s use of a megaphone. Funny to think that they were contemporaries, perhaps with more in common than is first evident.
After the ‘full album’ business is over, it’s time for a Bauhaus greatest hits night, material drawn from their other three 80s albums (and singles), plus a nod to their 2008 reformation effort Go Away White in the shape of ‘Adrenalin’.
1979 debut single ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ is a gothic delight, a menacing, slow burning classic that is lapped up by the many devotees here tonight, while actual smash hit ‘She’s In Parties’ allows Murphy to show off his melodica skills, and still sounds incredible, as does ‘Kick In The Eye’, a funky demon of a song that sounds so fresh it could have been recorded tomorrow.Finishing the main set with 1980 single ‘Dark Entries’, Murphy returns with Thwaite to run through the delicate ‘The Three Shadows Part 2’ and a cover of Dead Can Dance‘s ‘Severance’, a long-time cover favourite. And speaking of covers, a triumphant second encore allows Murphy to bring back Desert Mountain Tribe to join in with an ebullient and celebratory run through what was actually the band’s biggest hit, their version of David Bowie‘s ‘Ziggy Stardust’.
Peter Murphy’s place as King Of Northampton is surely more secure than ever.