Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Peter Murphy concert review

A version of my review originally appeared at:

courtesy Nettwerk Records
“I’m going out of my mind! Peter Murphy at Detroit Bar!”

That loud exclamation, by a delighted male fan, definitely summed up many concertgoers’ thoughts on Sunday night, when the influential goth rocker played his smallest Orange County gig (capacity: 250) in recent memory.

Earlier this month, Murphy released aptly-titled album Ninth via Nettwerk Records. The potent effort, recorded with his core live band, frequently delves into hard edged terrain (modern rock radio stations should be all over it; Rodney on the Roq’s late Sunday night KROQ program already spotlighted some material).

SoCal followers have been graced with several local appearances since the spring, including the Galaxy, Mayan and Amoeba Records (next up is the Troubadour on Wednesday; yet another return is planned for winter).

At the sold out, 75-minute Costa Mesa show, Murphy and his backing trio opened with the ominous slow churn of former band Bauhaus’ “Burning from the Inside” (not the complete 9 ½ minute version), before segueing into the glam-leaning “Velocity Bird.” Current single “I Spit Roses” (inspired by a tiff between Bauhaus members while recording 2008 swan song, Go Away White) was even better live.

The tall front man – dressed in a dark blazer and black t-shirt with a hint of eyeliner - preened, gestured, leaned on the musicians and was close enough to lighting on the modest stage to re-position them as needed. He was jovial, playfully taunting the crowd about touching him and whether they got their money’s worth.

Front-loading the set with four brawny new songs from Ninth (out of five total) and a forceful take on Iggy & the Stooges’ “Raw Power” was a risky move. Another ‘80s Bauhaus nugget - the regal and frantic “Silent Hedges” (where Mark Gemini-Thwaite impressed on 12-string guitar) proved captivating, but didn’t stave off some people’s restlessness. One frustrated guy, obviously anxious for the old solo hits, yelled “c’mon, throw us a bone.” He didn’t exactly get his way.

Murphy debuted “Gaslit,” a promising, meditative tune from a forthcoming EP. The lush “Subway” and “I’ll Fall with Your Knife” (Murphy handled acoustic guitar on the latter) used sampled instrumentation and were among the evening’s more dramatic high points. Both went down well.

Lurching main set closer “Uneven & Brittle,” driven by fuzztone guitar, was obviously inspired by Bauhaus’ touring and Murphy’s recording with Trent Reznor over the past five years.

Come encore time, the vocalist returned to the 12-string instrument for gorgeous ballad “Marlene Dietrich’s Favorite Poem” (from 1989’s Deep). He stopped the song when an electronic drum pattern emerged at the wrong time.

This up close and personal evening with Murphy might have been a bit short and bereft of radio hits, but it proved he’s still a unique and vital artist who deserves continued attention.

Peter Murphy, Detroit Bar, Costa Mesa, June 26, 2011 
Setlist: Burning from the Inside (Bauhaus)/Velocity Bird/Peace to Each/I Spit Roses/Seesaw Sway/Raw Power (Iggy & the Stooges)/Silent Hedges (Bauhaus)/Subway/Gaslit/I’ll Fall with Your Knife/Indigo Eyes/Deep Ocean, Vast Sea/Uneven & Brittle
Encore: Marlene Dietrich’s Favorite Poem/All Night Long

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