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Live Report: Bauhaus

9:30 Club, Washington, D.C., September 7, 1998

Bauhaus may have billed their global reunion trek as the
Resurrection Tour, but it’s actually more like the Second Coming.
The majority of the assembled faithful — a bizarro mix whose
apparel signaled either sex shop employee or librarian (and the odd
sex-shop librarian) — were barely out of training pants when
Bauhaus called it quits back in 1983. But the performance of goth’s
main progenitors was no mere re-hashing of a by-gone era: The
veteran band that took the stage had all of the energy of a kicking
newborn.

After several teasing minutes of loud, ominous rumblings, a black
curtain parted to reveal a large rectangular video portrait of
singer Peter Murphy at center stage. Flanked by the black clad
David J on bass and Daniel Ash on guitar, Murphy’s image implored
“I dare you to be real.” As rock theater goes, it was
brilliant.

Murphy bounded onto stage in person for “In The Flat Fields,” to
thunderous applause and hollers. Freeze-framing in the glare of the
lights, he clearly understood his own iconography, and allowed the
crowd to absorb every last drop of it. Striking pose after pose, he
pranced and stalked the stage with all the refinement of the Grim
Reaper in Gucci.

Musically, the band was air-tight. Ash’s guitar work was
stunning, angular and cutting during “Flat Fields,” while his sax
was as sexy as it was disjointed for “In Fear Of Fear.” Kevin
Haskins and David J’s rhythmic backbone gave the songs their dark
heft as well as propulsive groove — especially evident in “Kick in
the Eye,” and the spy-themed take on “Sanity Assassin.”

The structure of the performance was well-paced, with the goth
drama implied more than overt. However, the haunting beauty of
“Hollow Hills” was enhanced by a scattered string of dangling light
bulbs. Glowing and fading as Murphy ducked and danced around them,
they resembled large, otherworldly fireflies.

Throughout the show, the band drew upon the influences of their
collective past and present. A stripped-down cover of Dead Can
Dance’s “Severance” gave way to a Bowie-esque version of “Boys,”
Murphy preening with a black boa and mirror. A wonderfully poetic
“She’s In Parties” was dismantled into a dub bass rumbling with
Murphy singing the Doors’ “Riders On The Storm.”

But it was in their encores that the band pulled together the
allegorical aspect of the show, paying homage to the icons whose
stories and influence made Bauhaus a reference point themselves.
Returning to a demanding crowd, the band sent waves through the
hall with a buoyant version of Iggy Pop’s “Passenger.” Without
stopping to catch their breath, they sailed into a blistering cover
of Marc Bolan’s “Telegram Sam.” With the air crackling with energy,
Bauhaus gave the people what they wanted — a resplendent rendition
of “Ziggy Stardust.”

The evening’s only low point was the final encore, a needlessly
long twelve-minute version of their opus “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.”
After an evening of subtleties, Murphy’s acrobatics excluded, the
sight of the singer swirling around in a cloak and shroud was
beyond obvious and almost embarrassing. Still, far from casting a
pall on the stellar performance that preceded it, the image served
to show that Bauhaus’ future depends as much on the present than
the past.

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