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The venue was dark upon arrival, and a subdued cello-driven piece played softly in the background. Concertgoers were hushed, some sitting – the whole scene giving the impression of an aged vampire’s study. If you had closed your eyes you might have heard a fire crackling and smelled worn leather chairs and musty books gathering dust on the nearby shelves. It seemed all too typical at first. But this entire facade of old world gothic comfort was soon shattered when the fog machines switched on and BAUHAUS brought their frosty funk to the stage.
For too long these post-punk pioneers have been left off the list of oft imitated innovators like GANG OF FOUR, WIRE or PIL, on whose coattails so many current bands ride. The unsavory tag of goth has weighed Bauhaus down for years, obscuring and often devaluing their other musical contributions. While they are of the original few that set the standards for this much-maligned genre, they have been extremely influential in other ways as well. DAVID J, KEVIN HASKINS, DANIEL ASH and PETER MURPHY fused elements of post-punk funk, avant garde noise and industrial intensity with a fondness for the macabre, creating a sound that has not since been duplicated.
Bauhaus began their set with “Burning From The Inside,” followed immediately by “In The Flat Field.” What was readily apparent from the first note was the precision of the band. The brothers Haskins held down the off-kilter rhythms unflinchingly, even robotically – especially David J, who moved with measured jolts and whose pallor could only be matched by a corpse in deep freeze. He seemed hardly human. But to counteract the coldness, Ash soon brought a bit of warmth to the stage when he put down his guitar to show off his skronk sax skills on “In Fear Of Fear.”
Next was my favorite, “Kick In The Eye,” and the band played a few more upbeat (well, as upbeat as Bauhaus can get) songs before Murphy brought the chill back into the air with a haunting “Hollow Hills.” The crowd sang along solemnly, but with passion, and a burst of applause erupted when the last lingering note disappeared into the ether. The energy changed, yet again, for the next part of the set, and Bauhaus ended with “Hair Of The Dog” and “Dark Entries” before thanking the crowd and leaving the stage.
The first encore started when Ash brought out his acoustic guitar and began singing “Slice of Life.” The crowd went pretty wild hearing this, and the encore continued beautifully with the icy glam of T. REX’s “Telegram Sam” followed by DAVID BOWIE’s “Ziggy Stardust,” which, incidentally, got Bauhaus to #15 on the U.K. charts back in 1982. After these three songs, Murphy took an elegant bow with the other members before they all left the stage once again.
As I waited in the dark, I guessed the second encore would include “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” And, as it turns out, I was right. Bauhaus came out, played the hell out of that number, and made every fan in the house leave with that warm fuzzy feeling you get when a band does exactly what you want them to. The neophytes could then say “I saw them too!” and the older fans could say “they were better in ‘81!” or “they should never have re-united,” or even, “god they look old!”
But, since I fit into the category of not even having been born when the band formed, I left quite satisfied and a little in awe, knowing that I had seen legends and realizing that even a couple of old guys can absolutely play the pants off most of those dime-a-dozen imitation post-punk bands that are all the rage right now.
(gorgeous photos graciously donated by Alyssa Scheinson)
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