I love the Goth subculture, both in terms of aesthetics and music. A Bauhaus concert meant a trip back to not only the early days of the Gothic subculture, but also to my early days of Gothness.
I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was 19 or 20 and was on the borderline between commercial easy-listening music and the less accessible alternative stuff. It was clear that I would go either one direction or the other. It was just as clear that I didn’t find any excitement in pop music and commercial music anymore. I was tired of the easily accessible tunes with simple lyrics about the beauty (and sometimes pains) of love, about partying and getting drunk, about sunshine and beaches full of pretty women, … I wanted something more, something that went beyond that pointlessness, some music that brought an ideology or at least some more in-depth lyrical content. Heather Nova had opened me up to alternative music three or four years earlier, and Placebo continued my fascination for alternative music, while my interest for mainstream music further decreased. I was looking for something that is more than just music, more than just a lyric and a sound. Well knowing that I was at an age where memories are formed and where usually the direction you take is the direction you stay in (if only because at a later age there’s the youth sentiment of the music you listen to at that age), I had enough of mainstream music and searched something that suited me amongst the alternative range.
Then a penfriend told me about her passion for Gothic music and its subculture. Out of interest I checked some resources, and was quickly swamped by it. The Gothic subculture pleased me a lot. The darkness, the unlikeliness, the surreal aspect, the passion for the horror in literature in art but also for the true darkness (the darker side of life and of the human psyche), … Things I always had an interest in, but somehow I had never met other people that shared that fascination. Then the Gothic scene opened up to me and I was intrigued.
I remember the first time I checked pure Goth music. I had listened to dark music for a few years already then, but the true Gothic music was still unknown soil for me. On the web I read about the song that started the whole Gothic movement: “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, by Bauhaus.
I somehow liked the song from before evening hearing a single note. The lyrics about a dark desolate castle full of bats that fly out of the bell towers, the whole atmosphere of the lyrics alone stirred up my passion for the dark arts such as classic horror and gothic novels. The name Bela Lugosi even sounded a bit Latin-esque, which contributed to the mysterious character of the song (Bela Lugosi however is just the name of the first actor that gained worldwide fame by playing the role of Count Dracula).
I went to a shop in Kortrijk (in my native Belgium) then and listened to the song for the first time there. It was weird, but opened up a new world and a new fascination for me. The sound was gloomy, dark, mysterious, and then Peter Murphy’s vocals came, as hollow and echoing as if it came right out of a deep cellar (or, to use a more Goth-esque metaphor: a tomb!). I was intriguated and bewitched by it.
Since then I quickly went through more of Bauhaus’ discography, got in touch with more and more people within the subculture, and went to Gothic stores to purchase more Goth music. The record sleeves alone were so fascinating, the whole look of the models and decors had a touch of surreality. Silke Bischoff (currently named 18 Summers) are my favourite Gothic band, but I also got to appreciate the likes of BlutEngel, Siouxsie & The Banshees, some early The Cure records, Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble of Shadows, The Ghost Of Lemora, …
So to cut a long story short: I had discovered a scene I felt comfortable with, discovered a great musical genre, and it opened me up to a lot of nice events, offered me the opportunity to make friends who shared this interest, …
Anyway, Bauhaus all started it for me, so this concert brought a huge amount of nostalgia for me, even despite being 24 years of age only.
But, Bauhaus started it for, well, basically the whole scene. Although there were artists, bands and songs before Bauhaus that would later be classified as Goth or closely related to Goth (Joy Division for one, David Vanian of the band The Damned is widely loved by Goths because of his vampire lifestyle, and even Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” had a Gothic touch to it), Bauhaus were the ones that really launched the Gothic subculture. Without doing so deliberately, and of course they are more than just Gothic and used some other genres as well in their discography. But, it is just a fact that Bauhaus set the tone for the whole subculture and was a source of inspiration for almost all Gothic artists and bands after them. The song “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, a 9 minute gloomy epic full of horror sounds and introducing the “tomb voice” in music, is considered as the start of the subculture in many reference works.
Bauhaus were legendary, no doubt about that. They were the first band to deliberately create a horror atmosphere, during their gigs they used special effects such as stage lightning techniques to create a horror atmosphere, and there were the cuffins and Peter Murphy’s Dracula-esque clothing. They were not the first to bring make-up for males into music (we had glamrock in the early seventies after all, just think of Roxy Music, David Bowie and artists with similar appearance), but they were the first band to make the horror look their trademark.
The music was made up of monotone, inaccessible, slow, gloomy riffs, but sometimes also more up-tempo parts, however always in the same atmosphere of darkness. “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” contains some sounds representing opening cuffins, flying bats and howling winds, all sounds simply coming out of Daniel Ash’s amp, but it was far from their only song where experimental usage of the instruments and playing techniques lead to unique sounds.
So I can safely say (definitely given the many people in their thirties and forties that were in the audience) that I was not the only one having a feeling of huge nostalgia this evening.
Bauhaus had their highlights in the early eighties when, despite the inaccessability of their music, they did reach quite a big crowd. Songs such as “She’s In Parties”, “The Passion Of Lovers”, “Dark Entries”, “Hollow Hills”, “Terror Couple Kill Colonel”, “Telegram Sam” and the postpunk anthem “In The Flat Field” gave them a cult status that hasn’t changed today: Bauhaus are still the most iconic band in the genre, and Peter Murphy is and remains the Godfather of Goth. Their cover of “Ziggy Stardust” even gave Bauhaus a mainstream success, but it was not enough to keep the band together.
In 1984 the band split, and Peter Murphy embarked on a solo career, while the other three members formed Love And Rockets, and did some solo efforts. Peter Murphy’s solo work moved from the dark stuff to the more mysterious music full of Middle Eastern influences, and his music is very hard to put a label on, as it is quite unique and very diverse. Peter married a Turkish woman, moved to Turkey and converted to Islam. He is still a devote Muslim these days.
In 1998, the world saw a first Bauhaus reunion as the Resurrection tour took place, and the compilation album “Crackle” and the live record “Gotham” were released. However, new material was not released and it seemed the reunion was a once-off. For many fans, including myself, a new reunion was a far-off dream. A dream however, that came into reality when Bauhaus reformed for the Coachella Festival and got the taste of Gothness again there. A new tour, Near The Atmosphere, came and brought them to Dublin now. The reunion seemed so unlikely for such a long time, which made it more special and unique to see the 4 original members on a stage again together, doing Bauhaus material.
The gig turned the area of the Ambassador (by the edge of Dublin’s famous O’Connell Street) into a mass of Gothness for one evening, as the surrounding pubs were also packed with people in black suits and medieval dresses… There was no support act, so we were offered the main dish straight away.
It all started with a long guitar solo from Daniel Ash. Bauhaus’ brilliant guitar player looked as young and energic as always, however the peeky hair replaced by a pony tail was one major difference with the Daniel we saw back in the eighties. Then Peter Murphy quietly walked on stage. Walking very slowly towards Daniel, staring at the crowd with a bit of an eerie yet relaxed look… We immediately got to see one of the core elements of this gig: the incredible charisma of Peter Murphy, whose eyes alone can create a surreal atmosphere. As Kevin Haskins and David J took their place, we were ready to kick off with “Burning From The Inside”.
The second song immediately got the crowd going, as Daniel opened the oh so recognizable riff that starts off the postpunk classic “In The Flat Field”. During the American lap of the tour, amongst others during the New York shows, there were stories of Peter not being too interested in this new reunion. But I was convinced of the contrary straight away when Peter took the mike for “In The Flat Field” and got the crowd in an ecstatic mood. This time looking with a deeply penetrating horrifying look, as if he walked straight out of a Dracula novel, the crowd immediately got hypnotized by the beloved frontman.
The tone for the rest of the gig was set. The music and performances were excellent, the band felt like it very much. The atmosphere amongst a thankful Irish audience was great, especially when Peter said that they never played Dublin before, but that as a Murphy (referring to his Irish roots) it felt great to be back in Éire.
A few less often performed songs followed, including “A God In An Alcove”, along with “Terror Couple Kill Colonel” and the classic “She’s In Parties”, which was opened by Peter performing the intro on an oriental-sounding sort of trumphet-esque instrument, as if he brought it straight from his Istanbul home.
“Special effects by Lunatik and Drinks” is in the lyrics, but who expected an eighties-esque Bauhaus show full of light effects, had it totally wrong. The band created the eerie atmosphere without any special effects (not even by Lunatik & Drinks !) and the horror atmosphere relied solely on the enormous charisma of Peter Murphy.
The singer’s slow walk, very calm movements, and sometimes eerie-relaxed look, then followed by an anxious deeply penetrating look, were the core elements of the atmosphere of the gig. Peter still has the touch! His whole persona, attitude and movements reminded of a vampire count in his dark remote castle, like in a horror novel from the eightienth century or like in the very early vampire films. Peter gave a superb performance ; to those who still doubt about it: his mind is 100% with Bauhaus and he gave the best of himself.
We then got “Spirit”, followed by another classic: the more danceable and slightly more easily accessible “The Passion Of Lovers”, with a superb vocal performance by Peter.
The classics now followed in fast tempo, as we then got “Kick In The Eye” and an amazing performance of “Hollow Hills”. The haunting atmosphere, the claustrophobic feeling of the song, Daniel Ash striking his guitar with a stick as if it were a violin creating the slowest darkest riffs, while the monotone bass sounds from David J gave the whole song a very eerie touch. This is what Gothic is all about, this is what makes Bauhaus such a legendaric band. It may feel like a déjà vu now and of course it’s been done a lot, but Bauhaus were the first ones to come up with this sort of music and that way inspired the Goth bands of the nearly 25 years that passed ever since.
Also very original was a first interlude, when the band did not leave the stage but just closed their eyes and stood still for minutes, while the audience screamed for more, similar to when a band just left the main stage. The band quietly enjoyed the appreciation of the audience and gave what they wanted: more of the same! “Dark Entries” concluded the main part of the show, and then the band really left the stage.
But, there were two encores. The audience started screaming for Bela (Lugosi’s Dead, obviously) immediately but had to be patient, as more songs came first in the encores (three encores in total), such as the rarely played “Severance” and “All We Ever Wanted”.
Bauhaus surprised the audience with a newbie: a cover of Joy Division’s “Transmission”. It sounded great, Daniel’s guitars were awesome and Peter’s performance was a very nice tribute to the late iconic Ian Curtis. “St Vitus Dance” was thrown in a medley with this new cover. We then got a great performance of “Telegram Sam”, and of course the Bowie cover “Ziggy Stardust”.
The band left the stage again, but came back once more to give the crowd what they were waiting for all evening already: “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”!
No Bauhaus reunion could be complete without this song, the first ever Gothic song (well, that’s what reference works say — it’s debatable of course) and the unofficial Gothic anthem. It was very interesting to see how all those creepy sounds were created with only a small keyboard-esque instrument, Daniel’s guitar, and David J’s gloomy bass tunes. The sounds were as incredible live as on record, especially the haunting wind sounds and the sounds representing the bats leaving the castle of the dead Count. And then, once the long intro had passed, it was time for Peter for a last vocal highlight of the evening, as he once more told the story of the dead Count while waving his red vampire cape, just like in the old days. The song was the ultimate highlight of what was a brilliant concert, unfortunately two more songs had to be cancelled off the setlist because the two hours of playing time were already used. Thus, “Double Dare” became the only classic not played.
It could not ruin a single bit of the atmosphere though. Band and crowd had a great night full of nostalgia, but also proving that Bauhaus is still alive and kicking, and far from just a nostalgia act. The band was in great shape and Peter Murphy was amazing and highly profilic, the core of the whole show. However, Bauhaus proved how much they are a group effort. In some songs Daniel’s guitars are more in the front, some songs are coloured by David J’s basslines, but in general we can easily conclude that all four play equal parts in what makes or breaks the music of Bauhaus. The music could not do without either of their input, and during this show I realized well how everyone of them really contributes to the unique sound, even if one of the instruments is less dominant or up-front in a song it would sound completely different without it. Unlike some other bands where one member is the heart and soul of the band and reduces the other band members to background elements, with Bauhaus all four of them are very prominent in the sound.
The gig was simply excellent, and hearing those unique sounds while realizing what time they were made in, it’s easy to see how renewing and experimental Bauhaus were back then, and how much they really set the tone for all Gothic acts that would further form and define the genre. It’s still a thrilling thought to realize that the four men I was staring at and the sounds I was hearing, were the very people and songs that started the whole subculture I like. I am very thankful that I could still experience this, because a year ago it was very unlikely that Bauhaus would reform again anytime soon, if it wasn’t for a once-off invitation to play at Coachella Festival it may never have happened. I can only say thank you to Bauhaus, and I’m sure this feeling was something shared by everyone in the crowd.
An afterparty in Dublin’s goth club Dominion completed what became a satisfying night. And luckily I have the chance to experience this legendaric band once again, as I am off to Berlin next week to see them again in the Gothic capital of Europe. Berlin will be a mass of black, and Bela Lugosi lives again more than ever! Berlin faerbt schwarz!!
Burning From The Inside
In The Flat Field
A God In An Alcove
In Fear Of Fear
Terror Couple Kill Colonel
Swing The Heartache
She’s In Parties
The Passion Of Lovers
Kick In The Eye
Rose Garden Funeral Of Sores
Hair Of The Dog
All We Ever Wanted
Transmission – St.Vitus Dance – Transmission
Ziggy Stardust (reprise for a few bars)
Bela Lugosi’s Dead