August 27, 1998
Story by Tony BonyataGoth-rock pioneers Bauhaus have decided to pry the nails from the coffin that they hammered in fifteen years ago when they called it quits as a band. They're best remembered for their brooding, dark melodies in minor keys, imagery of bats, vampires and other things that go bump in the night, as well as theatrical live performances accentuated with bleak, atmospheric lighting. Bauhaus single-handedly created Goth-rock, a genre that would find many other bands throughout the 80's and 90's pilfering through their tomb.
Photo by Phil Bonyata
From their first underground single in 1979,"Bela Lugosi's Dead", to the final notes on their last studio album, Burning From The Inside, Bauhaus has amassed a large cult following of goth fans, recognized by black clothes, pasty white complexions, along with cold shades of makeup worn by both sexes. This dark fan base has grown in throngs since the band broke up in 1983. In their absence, author Anne Rice's gothic series of Vampire Lestat books have also helped keep the flame burning for these blood-thirsty minions.
After breaking up, bandmembers, Peter Murphy (vocals), Daniel Ash (guitars and vocals), David J (bass and vocals) and Kevin Haskins (drums) went their own ways. Murphy released a few interesting solo albums which found him still slightly dabbling with macabre material. Ash, J and Haskins, however, went on to form the "have-a-nice-day" post-punk band, Love And Rockets. Totally leaving the goth sound behind them, Love And Rockets helped pave the road for the alt-rock sound of the 90's with their uplifting, bright melodies, pleasant harmonies and pre-grunge, scuzzed-up rock arrangements.
Bauhaus now have reunited for a one-off tour in support of their new greatest hits package, Crackle (on Beggars Banquet Records).
The quartet brought their show entitled "The Resurrection Tour" to Chicago's Riviera Theater for two sold-out shows last week. The band opened up through a mist of smoke in the audience with the primal rhythm and scathing guitar effects of "Double Dare". Murphy, however, was nowhere to be seen, that is until a television monitor in the center of the stage flashed on to reveal a pallor blue closeup of his face droning out the taunting lyrics, "I dare you, to be real". A stout dare, indeed, for an audience full of kinder-goths, aging vampire role-players, punkers, tattooed young ladies and lipstick-smeared boys.
Through the flashes of strobe lighting and stark spot lights, Murphy was mesmerizing with his stage theatrics and powerful voice. Dressed in a smartly tailored black suit and short, Julius Caesar-meets-Frankenstein haircut, his slender frame slunk over the stage with a lizard's grace. On the song "Boys" he turned his back to the crowd, held up a mirror above his head and carefully applied make-up to himself on this ode to the glam-days of the past. Rather than showing off his guitar prowess, Daniel Ash was more intent on creating an atmosphere with numbing, gray slabs of sound, piercing feedback and eerie guitar shrieks. Although Haskins and David J's visual presence were confined to the stage's darkness, their hypnotic, trance-like rhythms made the Riviera's Victorian walls, adorned appropriately with gothic architectural lace-work and peeling lavender paint, throb.
The band dug deep into their past, unearthing nuggets such as "The Passion Of Lovers", "In The Flat Field", "She’s In Parties" and "God In An Alcove". But it was the three encore numbers that drove stakes into the audience's hearts. With an unbridled punk attitude they blew into T. Rex's "Telegram Sam" before sending the crowd into a near state of delirium with their stunning rendition of David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust".
It was the last song of the evening, the dark, epic "Bela Lugosi's Dead", however, that defined the band more than any other that night. Amidst dramatic lighting that felt like it was from a German expressionist film of the 20's, Murphy, cloaked in a long black cape, jerkily flitted it above his head as if he was metamorphosising into a bat. Morosely he sang, "The victim's have been bled. Red velvet lines the black box. Bela Lugosi's Dead. Undead...undead...undead"
A bit pretentious, yes. But with their pointed tongues slightly in their cheek, Bauhaus pulled off this reunion, or resurrection if you will, brilliantly.
The Count would've be proud.
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