Live Music + Gig Reviews

Peter Murphy @ Scala, London

19 July 2005

This is ridiculous. In every imaginable way.

A middle aged man, beginning to lose the battle with pattern baldness has dyed his thinning mop of hair peroxide blonde and made it stand to attention a foot above his head. He’s strutting across the stage like a returning king fighting hereditary insanity, proudly lurching forward to strike a pose and meet his minions. Obviously not wanting to draw too much attention to his barnet, he’s come dressed in a purple suit with a matching cape and a six foot long cane.

Between the dizzying cape twirls and cane air punches it is immediately apparent that something is missing. Nobody is laughing. Not a single person has collapsed in a giggling fit. Everyone is stone faced and deadly serious. Welcome to a Peter Murphy show.

This is the etiquette. This is what any self respecting fan of the ex-Bauhaus singer expects. This is where all the Goths went. And why the heck not? Even if everyone takes things too seriously or at least pretends to, it is impossible to deny that this is anything but a show. It’s hard to blink let alone turn away from the stage. Oh, and there is also some music playing.

The sounds match the theatrics in that they are just as full of pomp and flamboyancy. Dramatic synths brood like a bad mood which has failed to lift since 1983. Robotic guitars chug along to the dark drumming like heavy metal programmed by a ZX Spectrum. And somewhere in the middle, buried under a bunker of echo, the man himself raises his own little electro hell.

It’s like Berlin-era David Bowie or Depeche Mode or basically any early pop with a furrowed brow. And those unashamedly pop sensibilities are why Pete Murphy is allowed to wear a cape. Much like his audience, he might want to give the impression that he’s difficult or troubled but underneath it all are sugary little hooks that you could sing a long to in the shower. And I guarantee that every one of the black eyelinered girls with nipple clamps and pentagram necklace owns a rubber duck. Even the frowning, six foot man in a leather jacket emblazoned with ‘Ruff Rock’ taps his foot when his girlfriend isn’t looking.

So maybe this isn’t as ridiculous as it seems. Murphy continues to do what he does for a reason. Perhaps this is the only way from preventing great songs from being devoured by the true dark lords of the music industry. Strip away the darkness, the imagination and it’s a razor’s edge before the pit of X-Factor type television and dead eyed, fixed grin dance routines. No wonder his hair is standing on end. Dim the lights and put on your wizard robes before it’s too late.

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