Review: Peter Murphy and David J. Bring Bauhaus Back to Life at Novo


Vocalist Peter Murphy and bassist/vocalist David J. have involved themselves in many different projects over the years, but to diehard Goth music fans, they’ll forever be associated with the dark sounds of Bauhaus. On a relatively warm February night in downtown Los Angeles, veterans of the black clad generation (albeit, older and greyer now) came out to celebrate some of the pioneering music from this unique genre.

Peter Murphy – Photo by Charlie Llewellin

Along with original Bauhaus bassist David J., Murphy assembled a strong quartet to revisit the group’s debut album, In The Flat Field, as well as many other Bauhaus favorites. Drummer Mark Slutsky skillfully navigated some of the act’s trickier rhythms, while accomplished sideman Mark Thwaite’s acoustic and electric guitar work brought these nicely-aged songs back from the dead, so to speak.

Experiencing the reggae-dub groove to “She’s In Parties” live, it was impossible to underestimate David J.’s bass work in Bauhaus. As distinctive as Murphy’s dramatic vocals are, Bauhaus would not have been nearly as experimental without J.’s solid and inventive low-end contributions. David J.’s playing was equally noteworthy during “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” (which is, perhaps, the Goth national anthem). On it, Murphy turned up his collar, spookily played with his cape and leered at the audience while he channeled Lugosi’s horror movie cinematic image.

The group encored with a couple of emblematic covers that pointed back to a few of Bauhaus’ original musical inspirations. First, they played a speeded up version of T. Rex’s “Telegram Sam,” before launching into David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust.” It was during the latter’s rock & roll love letter-like performance where Murphy’s Bowie-isms came most to the fore. Indeed, Peter Murphy invokes Bowie’s theatrical qualities as well — if not better — than most. 

With its angular guitar parts and off kilter rhythms, Bauhaus’ music has survived surprisingly well. Even though the band may have fit nicely into the overly dramatic, death-loving Gothic scene, the act’s music does not sound particularly dated – even now. Image aside, this music holds appeal to lovers of progressive rock – particularly those with a leaning toward darker subject matter. 

Peter Murphy – Courtesy image Alterna2

Murphy was preceded by Desert Mountain Tribe, a trio that is obviously keeping Goth music alive for a new generation, and Vinsantos Defonte, a New Orleans drag queen/musician, who performed a brief set of personalized ballads.

Unlike many of the more nostalgic ’80s package shows, which seem to be more prevalent and popular than ever now, Peter Murphy, David J. and friends presented a satisfying set of music from that era that came off surprisingly relevant. They’re both still scary good.