Bauhaus + Hope 30.10.21 at Alexandra Palace, London
Bauhaus return to London on the night before Halloween. Just one UK date. This is huge. My most anticipated gig of the year. One of my favourite bands of the early 80s – as a student in Birmingham I wore my Bauhaus Ziggy Stardust t-shirt to shreds – but after a few years of doing their dark stuff, Bauhaus split. The bats left the belltower. Tonight they returned.
There was a 1998 ‘resurrection tour’ which passed me by and the band worked together again prior to a last 2008 album (Go Away White), which I only found out about recently (I like it on a few listens). Tonight was their resurrection in my eyes.
Bauhaus in my youth
I was in my last year at school when Bauhaus released their first album In the Flat Field, in November 1980. I remember exactly where I was when Bauhaus were first brought into my consciousness – I was sat in a Maths lesson next to my friend David (Chelsea fan DBa) when he revealed records he’d recently purchased. (X-Ray Spex was another revelation at the same time).
By June 25 1981 I was squeezed in down the front of the Lyceum, on the Strand, waiting for them to come on stage, after seeing Nick Cave’s Birthday Party, and Subway Sect support. I still have my scrap book of tickets and cuttings, freezing the moment in time.
I actually thought they got much better with later albums and tours and I remember being uncertain about this more artistic and dark performance, at a time when I was happier with a good old thrash from The Ramones, The Undertones or Buzzcocks.
By the time the 1982 The Sky’s Gone Out album arrived, with full goth pomp and dark glam rock, I loved the whole thing. Three gigs in quick succession, relatively for me then: Birmingham Odeon July 1982; Warwick University five days later and back at Birmingham Odeon in July 1983.
At the first Odeon gig I remember Peter Murphy peering out into the stalls dramatically and exclaiming ‘It’s a long way back there’ in his best ghostly voice. It was indeed. We were in row HH.
Shortly after, Bauhaus split up. I never got into Peter Murphy solo stuff in the same way – bought the odd single – but started enthusiastically absorbing it when I booked tickets to see him 30 odd years later in a disused mortuary in San Francisco, The Chapel, in February 2017. As the trip approached Murphy, then living in Istanbul, failed to get a visa to enter the USA after an anti-terrorist clampdown. Updates on Twitter built hopes up after early shows were cancelled but these then evaporated and I was long gone elsewhere on my US trip by the time Murphy was allowed in to play.
I did make the long drive one December night on my own in 2019 to the home of Bauhaus, Northampton and the legendary Roadmenders venue, to see Murphy with David J in his band. It was the night Pete Shelley (Buzzcocks) died – I remember seeing the news in a text as I waited for Murphy to take the stage. A dark but brilliant night. I stayed in a dreadful pub in smoky ‘cell’ that night. Glad I did it though.
On to Ally Pally
Alexandra Palace: not a venue I’ve been inside before. I did go to an all day Beat the Blues Festival back in 1980. That was outdoors…The Pop Group, The Raincoats, The Slits and John Cooper Clarke (I got him to sign my ticket afterwards – it too is in the old scrapbook).
But tonight it’s 2021 – 41 years later and we are getting on the Bauhaus Shuttle Bus up to Ally Pally from just round the corner of The Nag’s Head pub, opposite Wood Green tube station.
Tonight I’m here with Andy (a fellow Brum Bauhaus-ite) and Dave (DPa), the orchestrator. We’d spent the afternoon on stationary double decker bus serving craft ale with pizza from an adjacent wagon. (The Earth Tap, Bluehouse Yard. Excellent spot.)
Ally Pally stands in the middle of a very dark Alexandra park. Up the wide steps, Covid jab apps flashed, and it’s into a huge entrance hall, a beer and food hall where we calm our excitement with a few pricey beers.
What a magnificent selection of fans have been arriving – a spread of ages but overwhelmingly Bauhaus fan originals. Even in my unusual Lockdown studded trouser aquisition, I still feel I’ve blended into the darkness compared to many of the ornately adorned that arrived passing us in the entrance hall.
The main auditorium is very large, wide rectangular, high ceiling hall – an exhibition hall but with some character – the building is old (1870s) with a refurbished inside. The hall can hold 10,000 and as set up tonight they must have around 6,000 in with a bar and toilets to the rear.
The crowd file in during Hope, the support band: an excited, expectant crowd. It’s a big one. I paid little attention to the support band, unusually, but they complemented the build up.
It’s the original four back on stage: Daniel Ash (guitar); David J (bass); Kevin Haskins (drums) and the master of the darkness Peter Murphy (vocals).
From the opening words of Rosegarden Funeral of Sores this was going to work….the grand surroundings, the simple lighting, the wait and Peter Murphy’s stage presentation. Fantastic.
“Virgin mary was tired; so tired
Tired of listening to gossip
Gossip and complaints…“
Tonight’s Set List link.
The set builds and not long after first album title track In the Flat Field * we get to Spy…in …the Cab. It’s so familiar now but it seemed so mad when it was released. (*YouTube clip from tonight’s gig.)
The set moves into a string of classics: Terror Couple Kill Colonel; She’s in Parties and Kick in the Eye before the peak of the darkness: the immense goth anthem Bela Lugosi’s Dead… 10 minutes worth. I have a wander an try and get some snaps and some different views.
It’s hard to take your eyes off Peter Murphy, not that David J and Daniel Ash are any less cool – but Murphy is the master.
It’s all going a bit quick but a wonderful set. Not much chat from Murphy. It’s not needed. It’s a very visual presence he has to accompany the songs and they need no introduction. It would break the flow.
Murphy disappears up behind the drums for a while and fiddles with an unusual instument he picks up from the wings at some point.
The main set ends with the frantic Dark Entries. (YouTube link.) Excited chatter – what next?
The first encore is three songs including the longstanding Bauhaus covers Telegram Sam and the unmistakable ripping Bauhaus version of Ziggy Stardust – one of the best cover versions ever in my book and it has grown with the decades of live absence.
That’s it. Off they go. “This is NOT the last Bauhaus tour” is hanging in the air… ‘what did he say?’ people ask each other for reassurance.
Will they come back on… what more can they do? They do return once more with a calming All You Ever Wanted was Everything – we near as dammit got it. (YouTube live clip) A wonderful performance that absolutely met the nostalgic expectations.