Bauhaus gigs are like Goth buses. Wait patiently for ages for something to appear out of the darkness, and then 2 come swooping along at once, in less than a year, lighting the way before slinking off into the night, leaving you pondering if you’ll ever see their like again. Ok, a little melodramatic I agree, but that’s what you get with Northampton’s most famous contribution to the history of rock music. Drama with a capital D. Less than a year has passed since their triumphant and much heralded return, at Ally Pally last October, their first gig on UK soil for 15 years. Tonight, it’s Brixton Academy, a venue where I’ve seen The Clash, Pixies and Fugazi amongst many others, but this is my first visit since 2004.
Sadly, this gig plays out against a backdrop of rail and Tube strikes, making it difficult for many fans to get to this part of South London, even from North London, let alone anywhere further afield. I guess this contributes to the less than packed crowd as the gig begins uncharacteristically early as Bauhaus are due to take the stage at 8.15pm. It’s still light outside as we file in. The faces are here, slapping each other on the back, greeting each other like a happy funeral party for a much-loved friend. There’s plenty of chatter amongst the old heads, alluding to the theory that this could be the last time, and they’re determined to enjoy these last rites of what is one of the most important and influential British rock bands of all time. There’s plenty of younger fans too on the barrier as I scan the crowd looking for familiar faces as I take my place in the photo pit. It’s busy tonight and most of the usual suspects are here.
In a career spanning over 40 years, 5 albums can hardly be considered prolific, but it’s still 4 more than the Sex Pistols ever managed! However, they could have been considered to be prolific in the early days as they released 4 in 4 years. Who knows what number they could have been on now if it wasn’t for that 23 year hiatus? The setlist has pretty much written itself over the years, so many classic tracks. 10 months on from Ally Pally the set list is strikingly similar but 2 songs shorter and includes Adrenaline off of 2005’s Go Away White album, which is the first time I’ve heard it live.
The atmosphere feels different to the cavernous Ally Pally date, with the mock Italian Renaissance/Greek style architecture giving a more theatrical air to proceedings. As the first droning strains of Rosegarden Funeral Of Sores fill the auditorium, a flash of white light and they take their positions. David J’s bass weaves a hypnotic beat, before the arrival of Mr Murphy centre stage, apparently wading through treacle, as he exaggerates his steps. Shards of white light sweep the stage from behind. Both Pete’s and Daniel’s outfit shimmer in the lights, like mirror balls in human form.
Pete prances the stage, cane in hand, busting moves like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s child catcher or the Pied Piper of Hamlin. However, this time the difference is that he already captured our collective youths long ago. He stands centre stage, arms wide, waving the aforementioned cane as if by way of introduction. The hairs on my neck literally stand on end as the opening riff to Double Dare follows. The stage is pitch black save for a smattering of strobe lights back and front. Atmospheric but a pain in the ass for the photographers. It’s brutal. Pete plays hide and seek in the shadows, keeping us all guessing, before mounting the riser next to metronomic drummer Kevin Haskins as In The Flat Field erupts. It’s almost as though he’s expecting to be teleported out of SW9 as he stretches skywards, “I get bored” he sings as he sparkles, whilst Daniel’s guitar screams. David J, meanwhile, remains almost totally in silhouette. A God In An Alcove sees Peter crown himself, perhaps the self-appointed prince of Goth. Then it’s time to get funky as David takes up the sax as In Fear Of Fear kicks in and the searchlights go crazy. “Thanks very much, lovely to see you all again” Pete remarks as he returns to centre stage before Spy In The Cab driftsinto earshot and he’s at it again with the transporter beam. Is there a more sinister song about driving HGVs around? Actually, are there any other songs that tackle lorry driver’s tachographs? Nope, me neither! The rest of the set flies by, stopping at the usual stations on the way, She’s In Parties, Kick In The Eye, Bela Lugosi’s Dead, The Passion Of Lovers. Stigmata Martyr and Dark Entries.
Seasoned fans know what to expect now from the encore. Usually a collection of covers, which they have made their own. I still maintain that their Ziggy is better than the original, blasphemous I know. And so, Sister Midnight, Telegram Sam and Ziggy Stardust are all dusted down and trotted out as per. However, it is Adrenaline, taken from their seemingly final album, Go Away White, that breaks the chain and sounds brilliant, with the 3 of them on vocals. And then they’re gone, 17 songs in 75 minutes, possibly never to return to this stage. Could have done with more, could have done with it being a bit louder but if that was it, then thanks for going out on such a high. This is a band that have given me so much over the last 40 years or so. I remember them writing to me after I sent a letter to the address on the back of the Dark Entries single, sadly long lost but thanking me for buying the single and being a fan. Arguments will rage long into the future about who was the first “Goth Band”. Is it The Cure, Siouxisie, Joy Division or Killing Joke maybe? One thing is for sure though, nobody has done it better than the four boys who put Northampton on the map.
Rosegarden Funeral of Sores
In The Flat Field
A God In An Alcove
In Fear Of Fear
Spy In The Cab
She’s In Parties
Kick In The Eye
Bela Lugosi’s Dead
The Passion Of Lovers
Sister Midnight (Iggy Pop)
Adrenalin (last played in 2006)
Telegram Sam (T.Rex)
Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie)