Peter Murphy @ Dingwalls
aaamusic | On 11, Aug 2010
London, 5th August
Given that the ticket sales were so small that the gig had to be relocated from the Electric Ballroom to Dingwalls, many would be forgiven for assuming that Peter Murphy is yet another failing aspect of a bygone era. However, this could not be further from the truth as he proceeded to remind the denizens of Camden Lock why he is the godfather of goth.
The first band were Greenhaus, and although they did put the effort in, the overall effect fell short of the mark. Their pulsating dance beats and dark atmospherics were executed with passion, but unfortunately the elements could not gel completely, leaving awkward aspects of what should rightfully be an elegantly hypnotic stage show. Perhaps it was just the mixing that is nearly always inflicted upon opening bands, but the vocalist sounded out of place, a little too nasal among the shimmering guitars and thumping rhythms. However the biggest sticking point was the sheer repetitive nature of some of their songs, turning what could be uplifting gothic tracks into uncomfortable dirges. However, they do have the foundations of an interesting, if uneven sound.
The second act was Lettie, who was in possession of another interesting musical style, a kind of melancholy alternative pop sound with rich, melodic vocals that float breathily above the crowd. Musically, Lettie fared a little better than Greenhaus. As always, the mixing had settled, and the audience were feeling more receptive. However, as with many a cult gig, it is hard to win over the audience as a support band. However, despite the minimalistic approach to her sound, Lettie was able to conjure an atmosphere in the venue despite her distinct sound and the capability of such a sound to divide opinions.
It was with a great sense of majesty that Peter Murphy entered view. Some fans joke that he is a vampire, and seeing his stately defiance of the human aging process, it is entirely believable. And as a stage presence, well, to call him a singer would not do justice to his role. Not content with simply singing the words, he almost becomes the music in a pseudo-shamanistic manner, moving to the rhythms and melodies in an almost inhuman fashion. Every movement sparked an electrifying charisma, almost completely
unaffected by the smaller stage. In addition to this, both he and his band proved themselves to be truly versatile musicians. Not only did they pull off the romantic, emotional material of Murphy’s solo career with aplomb, his deep voice at its typical best in his well-known songs such as ‘A Strange Kind Of Love’ and ‘Cuts You Up’, but they ripped into the older Bauhaus material with a ferocious wailing dirge, the guitars transforming from warm strumming to banshee screech with ease as songs like ‘Stigmata Martyr’ even provoked small moshpits to open up with the primal force of the music. Perhaps most surprising of all is the way that the band managed to cover ‘Raw Power’
by Iggy & The Stooges, not only preserving the threat and menace of the original, but adding their own art-punk stamp to it without butchering it, a true accomplishment given the song’s iconic status.
It can be argued that his stage banter drew out the set when in fact more songs would have been welcome, but the fact remains that Peter Murphy held the audience to him, and the intimacy of the venue allowed a small question and answer session to occur. However, the carry-on involving his stopping of the Bauhaus cover of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ (which some argue is superior to the original version) did feel a little over the top, and perhaps even taking liberties.
But overall, even that could not dampen the mood of a spectacular return by an inspirational artist to London’s venues.
Although Peter Murphy has been on the music scene for a considerable amount of time, to call a gig such as this nostalgia would be a great error, when the impact of the show comes from a vitality that is from the immediate present, not relying on the older audience members’ memories of better days. In the words of the man himself, this is not retro. All the talent and artistic passion is not echoing from long ago, it is still running even now.
Author: Katie H-Halinski
Photos: Katie H-Halinski & Jake Richards