Tonight I had an opportunity to see Peter Murphy in concert at Yoshi’s in San Francisco. A special event that was part of a handful of California shows, the gig at Yoshi’s was actually two, back to back shows – one slated for 8:00 PM (which I attended) and another scheduled for 10:00 PM. It was a fantastic show, and I really can’t say enough good things about the experience. An incredible performer with an amazing voice.
Peter Murphy was one of the founders of the British group, Bauhaus, and served as their front man and vocalist. The band was founded in 1978 and broke up in 1983, but is revered as a pioneering force in music, as they borrowed from and reinvented a number of different styles and genres of music, with punk and rock fundamentals, and are credited as developing a gothic rock style that has influenced many important artists that followed. Murphy himself has been referred to as the Godfather of Goth, and while he has mostly cultivated his solo career since the initial break-up of the band, the remaining members – Daniel Ash on guitar, Kevin Haskins on drums, and David J on bass – carried on working together as Tones on Tail (probably best known for “Go” on the Sixteen Candles soundtrack) and then Love and Rockets, as well as various independent efforts.
I’ve personally been a huge fan of Bauhaus and everything that followed, and have seen Peter Murphy in concert several times, going back 20 years. In fact, I still have my concert t-shirt from the 1992 “Holy Smoke Tour”:
Concert t-shirt from 1992 gig – 20 years ago…
I also had an opportunity to meet Peter Murphy in 1995 at a Virgin Megastore signing, prior to a concert I attended the same night. As a funny side note, Jewel (quite famous now) was the opening act on that tour, and this was before she really broke out, and I remember her yodeling and mimicking The Cranberries for a few laughs. Below is a photo from our meeting and an autograph Peter Murphy had given me at the time:
Signing in 1995 at Virgin Megastore on the Sunset Strip in L.A. (since shut down)
Autograph from 1995 signing
Getting to tonight’s show, it was at a small venue called Yoshi’s in San Francisco. It was my first time there, and I was very impressed. It is definitely a small venue, about the same size as Troxy’s in London, where I saw New Order a few months ago – the main difference being that the floor in front of the stage at Yoshi’s was comprised of small tables with four chairs each (and a lot of space in-between) while the same area at Troxy’s was all open general admission standing room only.
I was fortunate to had been on Facebook when the back-to-back gigs were announced, as tickets were put on sale at the same time, and I was able to buy a ticket the moment they went on sale, which put me right in front of the stage (the small table for drinks actually touches the stage). Yoshi’s is characterized as a jazz club, and also includes a full bar and Japanese restaurant.
Since there were two shows, there was not an opening act. The atmosphere was very different for a rock concert, with everyone at their tables at seats, and Peter Murphy and his band came out on stage almost in the same manner a small jazz band would, with little fanfare and real warmth directed at the audience.
They opened with a song that is not from Peter Murphy’s or the Bauhaus catalog – “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails. A truly awesome, somewhat a cappella version. As an aside, Trent Reznor is truly not sufficiently recognized as a lyricist, and I think the fact that both Peter Murphy and the late Johnny Cash covered the song speaks volumes.
Throughout the performance, Peter Murphy and his band played a variety of lot material in a short time (a bit over an hour) – from Bauhaus to different periods of his own solo work; opening with the aforementioned cover of NIN, and closing with his most famous cover from the Bauhaus era, David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust”. Throughout the show, Peter Murphy provided some funny and witty (and sometimes dark) intermissions, one of which was with regards to David Bowie telling him that his own rendition of Ziggy was superior.
Since I was seated in front, I refrained from shooting any video until the very last song, which happened to be Ziggy Stardust. I wish I had more to show, just to illustrate what a fantastic concert it was, but the following will give you some idea of the energy, as well as interaction with the audience in this small venue.
One of the other funny exchanges with the audience during the show occurred when someone shouted out “Bauhaus”, to which Peter Murphy responded “I am Bauhaus”, and then further clarification unfolded, not all of which I remember clearly enough to account for accurately here, but he also said “Bauhaus was an idea“, and he also noted it was disrespectful to talk about another band while one is on stage performing, and reintroduced his extremely talented bandmates, Nick Lucero and Mark Thwaite.
Another funny part of the performance were some remarks he made about some concert goers who ordered and were eating food during the performance, saying that there was a legend on stage, and it would be like eating during the performance was analogous to eating while having sex.
Anyway, it was a fantastic show on every level. At the end of the set, Peter Murphy went along the front of the stage to thank those of us fortunate enough to be that close, and shake hands, etc. When he got to me, I shook his hand and mentioned that I had met him in 1995, and he said into the live mic, still in his hand, “he said he saw me in 1995, and now he can say he saw me in 2012!”. He was really friendly with the audience, and one guy asked for his autograph, pen and paper in hand, and Peter Murphy told him to meet him backstage, and gestured to the door behind the gear – of course, they guy didn’t hesitate, jumped up on the stage, and made his way to the back. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen another musical artist so casually give such an opportunity to a random member of the audience, but I think it illustrates that Peter Murphy is genuinely appreciative of his fans.
Of course, there are a few dozen songs that come to mind that weren’t played that I would have loved to have seen and heard live, but given the time constraints, I think it was a really good set list with a sampling of his works. One of the highlights was a cover of “If You Go Away” that was phenomenal (someone posted a good audio recording on YouTube here). I was also lucky enough to get his set list after the show (see photos at very end); there was actually an alternate version taped underneath.
Below are some photos I took during the performance. Even though I was very close, I found it challenging to achieve good results with my pocket camera and the lighting used for the show (discarded many blurry photos).
Click any photo for higher resolution version: