LOS ANGELES — Black was the predominant color at the Hollywood Palladium on Sunday as goth pioneers Bauhaus reunited onstage for the first time in 11 years. The powerful spotlights flashing across the stage and out over the sold-out room created a stark setting and an electric sense of anticipation ran through the audience. Fans had been waiting for this for a long time.
The legendary goth band, which formed in Northampton, England in 1978, initially broke up in 1983. The quartet has reformed for a 20th anniversary performance in 1998 and at Coachella in 2005. But after recording 2008 album Go Away White, the band members went their separate ways with vocalist Peter Murphy and bassist David J touring as solo artists, and guitarist Daniel Ash and drummer Kevin Haskins enlisting Haskins’ daughter to play bass in Poptone, which showcased Ash’s music from Bauhaus, Tones on Tail and Love and Rockets.
The four band members took the stage and set the mood as the droning guitar feedback of John Cale’s “Rosegarden Funeral of Sores” gave way to the song’s drum and bass groove. Murphy, gaunt-yet-paunched, struck poses for the audience and stalked the stage with a brooding intensity, often looking directly into the spotlights, obscuring his face in the white-hot glare.
The early portion of the set was dedicated to band’s early, more stripped-down and guitar-heavy material like “God in an Alcove” and “Spy in the Cab.” The energy level rose as Ash conjured the seasick and lurching guitar distortion of “Double Dare.” Murphy stood at the edge of stage, taunting the audience with his razor-sharp delivery of the song’s chorus: “I dare you!” The band continued to mine material from its 1980 debut album, In the Flat Field. On the title track, Murphy mounted the drum riser and stood over Haskins, delivering the lyrics with stark theatricality.
Murphy played a melodica for the intro to crowd favorite “She’s in Parties,” from 1983’s Burning from the Inside, and the band appended a percussion-heavy jam to the song with Murphy adding yet more percussion.
Stuttering rimshots announced the band’s most iconic ode to the macabre—and its first single—”Bela Legosi’s Dead.” Ash’s echoing shards of guitar and David J’s simple three-note riff drove the crowd into a frenzy. Though the song was marred by some unfortunate issues with feedback, Murphy sounded incredible as he belted out the song’s refrain, “Oh Bela,” before encouraging the audience to finish the line, “Bela’s undead.”
Clad in a black-sequined suit and sunglasses, Ash produced angry squalls of feedback and shrieks during some of the evening’s noisier fare like “X-Ray Eyes,” from the 1981 album Mask; and “Stigmata Martyr,” from In the Flat Field.
He strapped on an acoustic guitar to deliver the more delicate accompaniment for “Silent Hedges,” from the 1982 album The Sky’s Gone Out, as Murphy’s voice sliced through the cavernous venue. It demonstrated both the singer’s power and control. Murphy’s vocal performance was even more impressive (and reassuring) given that he was hospitalized after suffering a heart attack in August.
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Bauhaus closed out the main set with a rousing rendition of the punkish “Dark Entries,” from live album Press the Eject and Give Me the Tape. Murphy borrowed moves from Mick Jagger and David Bowie.
After 70 minutes, the band waved goodbye and ran off stage only to return several minutes later for an encore that began with just Ash and Murphy performing the dark and cryptic “The Three Shadows Pt. II,” from The Sky’s Gone Out. Murphy delivered the final verse with operatic power and Kafka-esque strangeness.
David J and Haskins returned to the stage and Murphy donned a purple wide-brimmed hat as the band ran through Iggy Pop’s “Sister Midnight” and T. Rex’s “Telegram Sam.”
The encore ended with a rocking cover of Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust.” Ash’s nearly recreated the iconic guitar part note for note and Murphy embodied Bowie as he delivered the lyrics with a siren-like sneer, bounding across the stage and leaning out over the audience.
The 90-minute performance demonstrated the members hasn’t lost a musical step after more than a decade away from one another. They even seemed to be enjoying themselves, cracking an occasional smile. The band returns to the Hollywood Palladium Monday and on Dec. 1.
The opening act, Automatic, featured Haskins’s daughter, Lola Dumpe, on drums and vocals. The band delivered a distinctly more new wave and synth-heavy sound than Bauhaus but also demonstrated the musical apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as Dumpe, keyboardist-vocalist Izzy Glaudini and bassist Halle Saxon Gaines warmed up the crowd with single “Calling It” and other songs from their 2019 album, Signal.
Follow writer David Gill at Twitter.com/Songotaku.