Friday, February 03, 2006

Bauhaus. Birmingham Academy, 2 Feb 06

The world in 1991 was still hesitant between vinyl and CDs. And forget MP3s and mobile phones, the Kingdom of Tapes was still the rule. I was at school when I-can’t-remember-who handed me one of those “High Fidelity”-style compilation tapes suggesting that I would definitely like Bauhaus, a legendary 80s band that ceased to exist back in 1983.

Within months their music graduated to LP-status in my collection, a likely suspect for my pocket money running thin. And how frustrated I became, typically falling in love with a band that I would never get a chance to see live during my lifetime. Correct me if I’m wrong, but who else would come up with a crossover between dub and spectral tones? And how about that sexy, warm, theatrical, voice, those robotic drum patterns and that guitar-god...and, by the way, is that actually a guitar I’m hearing or what?

2006 and here I am, at that grotty soon-to-be-knocked-down venue called Birmingham Academy, this time –would you believe it- ready to see Bauhaus reunited. A man resembling Bono if he went cyber steps on stage playing those hypnotic, unmistakeable chords and I’m blown away. It’s him! It’s Daniel Ash! And the song is Burning from the Inside. The crowd seems bamboozled and before you wake up Peter Murphy - looking fantastic at 49- launches into his “an-aay-more” refrain.

They all look amazing, Murphy may yet have to concede defeat about a receding hairline, but if I ever manage to look like that at 49 then blame a future pact with the devil. David J is looking increasingly like a handsome Chris Evans and only now, fifteen years later, I appreciate how unique his bass-playing style is. As a classic is played after the other, it’s up to the outstanding She’s In Parties to set the mood. The crowd have gone mad, while Pete Murphy seems to produce his Bontempi keyboard out of nowhere and David J’s bass-line promises to penetrate my head again for the next round of 15 years.

I don’t think our incredibly stuck-up self-important British press ever registered how tongue-in-cheek Bauhaus were. They hit the big time in America, but not here, the land where the NME lambastes week in week out if you don’t quite tickle their fancy. Quite amazing then to see the Birmingham Academy packed, and Peter Murphy undeterred in full-blown eccentrics. There's something magnetising about the man.

Kick In The Eye makes us dance and the eerie Hollow Hills leaves us transfixed. Part 2 of their set is an astounding display of cover versions, Dead Can Dance’s Severance, John Cale’s Rosegarden Funeral and –having everybody in awe- Joy Division’s Transmission. I may be accused of blasphemy but Bauhaus’ version sounds even better; much, much better. Think Billy Idol, Killing Joke and The Cult doing a Ian Curtis together. Actually, don't...

The band re-emerges for a stomping Telegram Sam, Daniel Ash sporting a fur-waistcoat and Peter Murphy vampiresque gear. But it’s not until Bauhaus return for Ziggy Stardust that we can go home alright, even more so with the hypnotic dub-goth classic Bela Lugosi’s Dead drawing the curtains, while I wonder how it is that a band as fantastic as Bauhaus will go down in history as the most underrated ever.

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