After living in Turkey for 15 years Peter Murphy is currently stateside on tour celebrating the release of his 7th album "Unshattered." More accessible than Murphy’s last two efforts "Dust" and "Just for Love," the new CD is more akin to the work Murphy produced on his "Cascade" and "Holy Smoke" efforts. And so went the performance at the Anaheim "House of Blues" on May 28. Opening with "Mirror to My Women’s Mind" from "Cascade" Murphy and his new stripped down, red hot, and powerful band migrated back and forth between new material from "Unshattered" to some of his anthemic standards including an unforgettable version of "I’ll Fall With Your Knife" in which the loyal and keen audience harmonized the la la la chorus. At one point Murphy himself even seemed stunned at the overwhelming enthusiasm the L.A. area audience displayed for the sentimental set he had arranged for them. One by one the foursome pounded out new and fresh takes of tracks like "Cuts You Up," "The Sweetest Drop," and "Your So Close." After a medley of favorites that lasted nearly two hours the main set ended with a searing version of "All Night Long" which brought the audience to a frenzy that recalled’ Murphy for no less than three amazing encores. The first began with Murphy and his new guitarist Mark Gemini Thwaite (Tricky, The Mission). Murphy picked up an acoustic guitar and the two of them belted out beautiful versions of "A Strange Kind of Love" and "Indigo Eyes." "Indigo Eyes" is always good, but the stripped down acoustic version accentuated Murphy’s voice and stellar songwriting skills in an almost carnal way. Not to be outdone by the first, the second encore opened with Murphy and Thwaite joined again by their new band mates drummer Justin Bennett (Skinny Puppy) and bassist Jeff Schartoff (Human Waste Project) for an amazing version of Iggy Pop’s "Lust for Life" in which Murphy mimicked those patented Iggy contortions which brought back memories of the origins of Goth when it was a darker and arty side of punk. Followed by an infectious and overtly anthemic "Hit Song" from "Holy Smoke" Mr. Murphy nearly blew the 'roof' of the "House of Blues." Again the sing along factor was one of high participation. Finally the Godfather of Goth gave his audience what they wanted and ripped through "Love Hysteria’s" "His Circle and Hers Met." Considered by many Murphy aficionados to be his strongest and purest work the track was no disappointment. The coupling of the vocal effects that colored the baying at the moon which is part of the track, and the power guitar was arguably made this live version far superior to the recorded track. While I have had a great affinity for the Hundred Men (Murphy’s former band) the new line-up was unmatched. The new power is stronger and better. The absence of a keyboard player and the use of occasional backing tracks where the electronics were concerned seemed distracting at times, but the result justified the new approach. Yes, Peter Murphy is back and with a vengeance. He seems to be more than aware that the strength in his music is as much about delivery as it is composition. Touted as one our of the finest song writers since David Bowie, he has taken the punkish roots of his early Bauhaus days, morphed them into a poetic if not literary songwriting style that is shrouded in a spiritual mysticism, and has become one of the most charismatic and sophisticated performers of our time.
Having seen many Attrition shows circa 1985 in England and Holland it was a pleasant surprise to find out they were visiting my city nearly 20 years. My memories of the Attrition experiences were very positive and I wondered if the band, the music, and the whole experience would or could measure up. Was I setting such high expectations that I was destined to be disappointed?
Well, I could have set the expectations as high as I wanted because the show was amazing. After two decades Attrition front man Martin Bowes has mastered the ring leader of tension role he assumes on stage. As usual he was complimented by a female singer that harmonizes with his vocals to give the music that Attrition signature. On this tour however, he was joined by the best female singer I have ever seen or heard Attrition with in a live setting or on a recording. Laura Reade from the band High Blue Star did the honors. She is a lot of dynamite packed into a petite package. Her stage presence is just as powerful as Siouxsie Sioux or Danielle Dax and she knows it. Her range and understanding of the kaleidoscope of color she is capable of creating makes he far superior to previous Attrition femme fatals.
The vocal harmonization’s cover a volumetric wall of dark electronic rhythms best described as industrial techno on Dracula acid. Most of the band’s set was from Attritions new CDLP "Dante’s Kitchen" which I highly recommend picking up. I would have like to have heard a few older tracks, but the music they did play was dark, edgy, and filled with a genuine gothic vibe. Which is after all what me and the rest of the L.A. underground came out to see.
The LEGENDARY PINK DOTS in concert is a memorably unique experience. I had the chance and the pleasure to see them for the first time in Basel, Switzerland recently and really enjoyed the performance. It was a small venue, but the LPD played it like it was the biggest concert hall. The music was bombastic. There were times during the show when it seemed there were a dozen people on stage - the sound was so rich and full and intense and LOUD! At times my pants legs were bouncing around my ankles, and I had to blink and re-check the stage and re-realize there were only 4 guys making all that sound. Edward Ka-Spel is the consummate lead man. He sings with such passion and style - those lyrics are his, and you feel it - at times not only singing the song, but becoming the song. He is always surprising you - sometimes the music is being played very softly in the background and he suddenly SCREAMS at you, other times, the music is swelling louder and louder and he... whispers. Confusing your senses, always keeping you on the alert... what's next?!?Everyone did their exceptional parts: Erik Drost (guitar) Phil Knight (Keyboardist) Niels Van Hoorn (wind instruments) – the last of whom plays two 2 wind instruments simultaneously. On two occasions even leaving the stage and walking amongst the audience wearing a pair of lighted spectacles, blowing his horn at several different people, some of whom were shocked, most of whom were extremely pleased. During one long, captivating song Edward acted out like a character from a play and it was like being finely woven into some rich fabric of storytelling. Their finale was amazing, stretching on and on, it could have gone forever. And they were still gracious enough to come back for 3 highly demanded encores.After the show all the members of the band walked around and spoke with their fans, completely casual and unaffected. For those of you are lucky enough to be see the LEGENDARY PINK DOTS in concert, I urge you to do so. If you are not already a fan, you will be. If you are already a fan, you will love them even more.
On the evening of Monday June 21st I walked to Irving Plaza and got myself a (pricey) ticket to see the legendary Skinny Puppy perform in NY for the first time in who knows how many years... Their new record is a bomb and they haven't played together in 8 years so the venue was packed with a pretty young (on average) and goth/punk/electro crowd, even on a Monday! The first band (whose name I didn't quite catch - the site said Otto Von Schirach - does anybody know?) was a one-man laptop artist with heavily treated down-pitched gore vocals and a chaotic approach to digital hardcore with influences of ambient anr rhythm-noise. His Hearts of Darknesses meets Aphex Twin meets Shapeshifter sound was quite interesting at times, especially when he'd go down the more rhtyhmical routes (which unfortunately only represented about half of his otherwise improv-noise set). After about four tracks and a bunch of noise in between them, ex-NIN Chris Vrenna and his project Tweaker took the stage by storm and that was really good, I must say. I wasn't familiar with the latest Tweaker music, but they really surprised me. With a stage set up that saw the singer singing behind and above the drum set (a choice that would be unusual if the leader wasn't the drummer) and a line up that included a dark and solid bass player, an involved and talented multi-instrumentalist guitar/keyboard player and the amazing and powerful Chris Vrenna, Tweaker got heads moving quickly and really made the wait for Skinny Puppy worth while... The music had beautiful electronic arrangements, rough and artistic guitars and top notch drumming, ranging from furiously tribal to precisely electronic. Vrenna was hitting both pads and real heads, triggering lots of sounds and samples that would create gorgeous rhythmical patterns and displayed great synchronization abilities. Finally the singer's performance was convincing as well; in his white suite and with good lighting, he screamed, whispered and sung through the tunes with great presence... Think of him, and in part of the rest of the band's music too, as a blend of Stabbing Westward, Jane's Addiction and Nine Inch Nails. Great band indeed.
So after the techies broke down Tweaker's backline the floor was getting hot for Skinny Puppy (whom I had never had the pleasure to see live) and when they finally came out the place went nuts. The music exploded and so did the stage and its lights (thanks to four synched blinder arrays). A good drummer (even though my heart is set for Tweaker's drummer for tonight), a dude playing both heavy metal electric guitar and bass at the same time (with a double-neck guitar+bass instrument) and of course the two geniuses: cEvin Key who was busy with a fully equipped rig of two laptops, a keyboard, trigger pads and all sort of christmas lighted outboard gear (from the back of the room where I was standing to avoid the violent mosh, it I could only see an Electrix filter) and Nivek Ogre, who sung the first song from backstage and showed up only for the second song with a scary-looking, mind-blowing and impressive costume... While the tunes of the new album (and a few others) followed each other, Ogre was getting progressively un-dressed and half way through the show he was dipping his hands and arms in blood-looking liquids, playing with fake weapons and gas masks, blowing flour around and interacting with the screen behind him, which had a live feed of an on-stage camera pointed at him and re-producing a treated version of what it was capturing plus several, and of course and thankfully extremely political, shocking and thought-provoking video clips. The choice of lighting wasn't bad but it pretty much left everybody except Ogre in the dark. Ogre's performance was absolutely eyes-popping and made up for the surrounding darkness. His swift crab-style side ways movements, his puppet-like arm movements, his extremely theaterical approach to the performance, his facial expressions, his rubber-ish gestures, his clothing and his style are so damn charismatic and unique that you'll never forget a concert like this for as long as you live. Think of him as a happy mixture of Keith Flint, Nick Curri, Stefan Ackermann and others, even though it is really Ogre himself you'd have to think about, as he's unique and if anything, source of inspiration to others.
Fans were in for a real treat tonight when Joey Ramone-looking un-announced surprise special guest star Al Jourgensen showed up on the stage to play guitar on a track: the place just went insane for a minute! There you have it, three of the greatest characters of the industrial music history in the world, together on the same stage!
After about 75 minutes of concert they came back for a pretty long encore with a different costume (flourescent strings and a huge Star Wars-style head-looking hat).
In other words it was a jaw-dropping experience that everybody should make once in their life. It was worth the price I paid and I am so glad I attended: Skinny Puppy really is industrial at its best!
Photo taken by Alex Veronac/Hyphen.One Studios