The quality of the voice is often replaced by the depth a performer brings to a body of music.
Gothic Theatre, Englewood, Colo.
The weather seemed ready for what Peter Murphy had to offer at his Denver appearance on the “Stripped” tour. Cold rain came down as the Gothic filled to a comfortable, seated capacity. The theater was outfitted with folding chairs for almost all of the audience and offered a rather intimate feel.
First, allow me a small quibble. This was billed as an acoustic tour, so one would safely assume that there would be few, if any, electric instruments. There, however, were more than a few lead and bass guitars along with a pretty beefy digital system, which never let the concert drift in an organic direction. Murphy, who is certainly an icon, can get a pass on this, but I can’t help thinking of this as a missed opportunity. It was obvious at times that his ability to hit notes was not there, but, like many singers who have aged in public, the quality of the voice is often replaced by the depth a performer brings to a body of music.
Murphy, famously a very exact performer on stage, curates his shows with care. He chooses songs that reward the knowledgeable fan with deep cuts off his albums, while eschewing the obvious hits. When he performed here nearly two years ago (with a full band), he allowed for only one Bauhaus song and left out “Cuts You Up,” easily his most famous solo hit. On this tour, he appears to have kept the selection to more dirge-like selections, rarely lifting the beat, but allowing his more theatrical tendencies room to breathe.
The sound was a bit of a problem, as it seemed to take the first three songs to work out some of the kinks, finding the right levels to buoy Murphy’s voice correctly. With “Marlene Dietrich’s Favorite Poem,” the concert found its footing.
Perhaps as reward for the more gothic tendencies of the show, the audience got a lot more Bauhaus. The band (featuring bassist/violinist Emilio China and guitarist John Andrews) performed beautiful renditions of several of Bauhaus songs, including “Silent Hedges” and “Hollow Hills.” There was even a sly inclusion of an excerpt from “Bella Lugosi’s Dead” in the middle of “A Strange Kind of Love.”
One of the more interesting musical choices of the night was the David Bowie song “The Belway Brothers,” which Murphy performed reverentially. It was a sweet tribute to a performer whom the members of Bauhaus had lionized.
While Peter Murphy is endlessly fascinating to watch (the man was built to be a silent screen actor), and even with his voice taking on some of the tonal qualities of the vampire Count, the show was slightly off. While neither the bats have left the bell tower nor the victims bled, Murphy’s show was a bit of an anemic evening. | Jim Dunn