There’s soaring inflation, public sector strikes and a cost of living crisis and somewhere in Northamptonshire the band Bauhaus are taking that angst and discontent and creating a goth classic. Bauhaus – or Bauhaus 1919 (as they were initially called) recorded their classic Bela Lugosi’s Dead amidst the industrial strife and political instability of Britain in January 1979.
Peter Murphy, Daniel Ash, David J and Kevin Haskins should be forgiven then for having a sense of deja vu as they prepare to take to the stage at Brixton Academy. Like the four horsemen of the apocalypse their presence once again heralds discord and disharmony and the arrival of quite a few tall blokes in leather trench coats too.
The strobe lights glare on and off. The brightness alternates with a deep darkness as the Nosferatu apparition of Peter Murphy appears in view. All the more sinister for the wooden staff he’s brandishing around. Beginning with Rose Garden Funeral Of Sores they make the John Cale track sound ever more languorous and compelling. Peter paces on. More songs from the debut album In A Flat Field follow including Double Dare and the title track.
Still very much the prince of darkness, even with those bleaching white strobe lights, Murphy makes his way to the drum kit where he stretches to look up to the heavens – well, to the painted sky of the Academy ceiling. He considers himself to be no rock god though as the iconoclastic God In An Alcove bears out with Murphy singing of “that redundant effigy”.
In spite of having the unwanted moniker of the Gothfathers tagged on them this Brixton Bauhaus crowd aren’t all dark, old and miserable. There’s quite a youthful turn out. Some are even smiling. Some are ‘dancing’ too – well they’re waving their arms around – flailing miserably. So perhaps the early start to compensate for the complexity of travelling around the Tube strike later meant just too much exposure to daylight for the older goths. That and maybe the ticket prices too.
The influence of their contemporaries Gang Of Four and A Certain Ratio seeps into In Fear Of Fear and they almost get a groove on with this track from the 1981 Mask album. Goth-funk anyone? Then it’s back to In A Flat Field for the almost Bowie-esque Spy In The Cab and its additional charm for the Bromley Contingent courtesy of its Siouxsie style vibe. This is all played out whilst a fan inexplicably shakes his fist over and over at the band before him on the stage.
Time for a ‘hit’ single! It’s very odd to consider that She’s In Parties shared the same UK Top 30 chart as Bananarama, Kajagoogoo, Toto and Iron Maiden back in 1983. Such eclectic times. Unlike some of the output of their chart chums She’s In Parties has matured well – like a good pint of snakebite and black. Kick In The Eye is another funked up punk affair – like Killing Joke remixed by Marsh and Ware – very 1981.
So to the homage to a Hungarian actor. When Bela Lugosi wasn’t dead he starred in films portraying the son of Frankenstein and Dracula. Judging by the rapturous applause that greets the song there are many out for the Count tonight. This is the song that started it all and Murphy milks the theatricals. Strutting the stage before issuing a blood red rose petal shower on the front row. Bela Lugosi Is Dead but there’s plenty of life in this goth classic yet.
Guitarist dandy Daniel Ash has been exemplary throughout and never more so than on Silent Hedges from The Sky’s Gone Out which again sounds touched by Bowie. As well as absorbing their early influences into their music Bauhaus have had their own impact on bands too. Passion Of Lovers is deliciously reminiscent of the work of New Model Army that would follow years later.
Suddenly after the wonderful stand out track from their debut album, Dark Entries, it looks to be all over. They’ve gone in the flap of a bat’s wing. Some of the assembled goths look disappointed and some may even be unhappy at this abrupt end – it’s really hard to tell! They needn’t have worried because Count Murphy and his crypt-kicking crew are back ready for some more. Bauhaus make sure everyone gets their money’s worth and still leave in time for the fifteen trains or buses they’ll use to get home. The final set of songs includes more idol adoration with their attempt at Telegram Sam before Bowie gets gothed out on their version of Ziggy Stardust.
Tougher times are coming and this bunch of aged goths have seen it all before. Can there be a better soundtrack the coming gloom?