Peter Murphy Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver BC, July 20
Published Jul 21, 2013As one would expect, a rather severe crowd gathered to witness the so-called "Godfather of Goth" perform an entire set of Bauhaus classics — three generations of fans, from strappy platform boot and dark lingerie wearing college goths to salt-and-pepper-haired mid-40s types with a more business casual dress code. Before the set, Murphy's manager came out to announce his upcoming tenth solo album, to be called Lion and produced by Youth, of Killing Joke, setting up a video preview that played a sample of five tracks. The PR attempt came off a little desperate.
When Murphy finally appeared, wearing a fur-lined suit jacket with diamond floral cufflinks the size of baseballs, the desperation seemed like it might be permanent. His voice was rough, shredding any time he tried to sing outside of the trance-like talking range, and breaking like a teenager when he tried to sing a downward melody in "In the Flat Field." A half-hour into the set, Murphy seemed to run out of steam, singing the entirety of "The Spy in the Cab" while sitting down on the drum riser centre stage.
Yet, even while sitting, Murphy worked a theatrical stage presence. Having shed his coat to reveal a sequin dress shirt, he clawed at air and hammed it up a bit for the spotlight. He'd look uncomfortable in the light as if he was trying to hide his eyes one minute, then take out a mini-florescent light for "Boys" and shine it into the face of touring guitarist Mark Gemini Thwaite and bassist Emilio China the next, making them stare right at it.
His band was in top form, propelled by Nick Lucero's sledgehammer drumming and the emotive interplay of Thwaite and China. They constantly changed up instrumentation, with Thwaite breaking out an acoustic guitar and China playing a spot of violin here and there, the latter of which was most striking on a rendition of "A Strange Kind of Love" from Murphy's 1989 solo breakthrough Deep. In turn, and in vampire fashion, Murphy seemed to feed on their energy.
Even as Murphy took his mid-set breather, his voice came out of hibernation, taking its place between David Bowie and Nick Cave. He regained the ability to sing powerful, sustained notes, and he moved around instruments more. He played acoustic guitar on "A Strange Kind of Love," tweaked percussion with a delay for the seminal "Bela Lugosi's Dead," wheezed melodica for the reggae-tinged "She's in Parties," and maximized the sound with electric guitar for the medley of "Stigmata Martyr" and "Dark Entries." The crowd responded with modest, inconsistent moshing and devout attention. Murphy earned every scrap of it.