In this rather unique review, we (GutterCandy) engage in a critical dialogue of the Peter Murphy/She Wants Revenge 2011 Tour and take a good look back at the following tour dates we each attended:
Monday, November 21, Irving Plaza, Manhattan, NY (Johnny)
Thursday, December 1, Showbox Market, Seattle, WA (Chris)
Johnny (to Chris):
Hey Brother Gutter. Don’t know how the Peter Murphy/She Wants Revenge tour struck you out in VanCity, but here in NYC it seems that the ’80s revival is fading a bit.
Maybe it was the ticket price — a steep $50 in these recessionary times — or the fact that it was a Monday night during a holiday week here, but the crowd was really disinterested right from the start, and both bands had problems generating momentum. The chattering in the audience was almost drowning SWR out at times, to the point where I felt bad for them. Justin Warfield was in fine voice, actually, and SWR finally did triumph during the last third of the set, but getting there was tough.
As for Murph, he seemed to me to be jaded and toured-out. Maybe’s he’s been on the road too much in 2011. The band also lacked the fire it showed last time around at the Highline Theatre here. Early on, it bungled up “A Strange Kind of Love” with some bum notes, and Murphy seemed detached from the material for too much of the night. There was none of the upbeat comedic banter heard in his shows earlier this year. It was very businesslike.
The crowd wasn’t that big to begin with, and I can’t imagine anyone was won over to come back next time. Too bad, as I thought Murphy’s album Ninth this year was one of his strongest in quite some time. Maybe he’s getting defeated by the inability to get anywhere with his new stuff in a commercial sense.
Greetings from Seattle (where I saw the show instead of Vancouver)!
Peter Murphy/SWR wasn’t sold out in Seattle but was in Vancouver. Plus, Seattle was $10 cheaper, so the ’80s are alive and well up North.
I too was gobsmacked at the chit chat throughout SWR, who deserved better, sort of.
In Seattle, the band also missed the groove, and to the uninitiated, it surely seemed like the group played one long song — it was often hard to dismantle the wall of dirge slung our way.
Early hit “These Things” was slowed down to a crawl and not to good effect. The nuances of “Take the World,” the opener off of the new album Valleyheart, were lost in the mix, which is a real loss because this track pulsates on the CD.
Not helping its cause was the Rick Wakeman-ish keyboard solo interval mid-set. Adam 12 Bravin’s flourishes lost what little was left of the crowd. Even the arsenal of the bands’ two biggest songs could not resuscitate this undead crowd, thereby leaving them prey to Count Murphula’s fangs.
Hey: Chrissy Gutter invades the home of 1990s grunge for a night of 1980s goth-rock music!
I totally agree that the gutted, semi a cappella version of “These Things” didn’t work, and that the Wakeman-like piano solo, while nice enough, was misplaced. SWR seems to have no idea how to build a set. It shot itself in the foot with these choices and also thought that playing “Tear You Apart” at the end would rescue the night for them, which in NYC it did — mostly.
Still, even when the group was misfiring, I thought SWR was passionate about what it was playing — and on this night, I couldn’t say the same for our gothic hero Pete.
Murphy wasn’t passionate on the West Coast either, unless you count petulance as passion.
When he kicked off the tour here in March, he was loose and funny, which buoyed the gig quite nicely; mistakes and miscues were laughed at and a good time was had by band and audience alike. This time around, he was back to his prima donna antics, and the crowd paid for it.
Murphy started quite strong with a rousing version of “All Night Long” and a cracking “Seesaw Sway” from his latest release Ninth. Then increasingly throughout the night, our hero started to get more pissy. It seemed he was displeased with the sound, judging from the glares he threw side stage. Unfortunately, his mood was taken out on the crowd.
Even the midset Bauhaus classic “Silent Hedges” wasn’t enough to save the entropy seeping over the crowd. The only other full Bauhaus song was “Too Much 21st Century” from the reunion album Go Away White. Given how tired and moody Peter was, “Too Much Touring” would have been more apt. I don’t know if it’s lack of commercial acclaim or just too many shows this year.
“Deep Ocean Vast Sea” and encore starter “Indigo Eyes” should have resonated more, but the middling set choices surrounding them, coupled with a perfunctory performance, smothered any chance of a comeback. The chit chat that overtook She Wants Revenge was resuming for Count Murphy.
By the end of the second encore choice, “Marlene Dietrich’s Favourite Poem,” his mood seemed tres sour, the crowd unadored, and we wished he wouldn’t go away heartbroken, but just go away. “Your Face” closed the show, but in a way that left things undone. It felt like there should have been a more raucous outro, like at the last show where a killer version of “Transmission” brought down the curtain.
Many in attendance felt the same, including some teenagers who paid the $50 for the meet and greet after, who swore to inform Mr. Murphy how disappointed they were. “Disappointment” is an appropriate term here, because Ninth is a stellar offering, as you reviewed, and deserves a better debutante’s ball, one with a less haute hostess.
Nice summation of the Murph!
While he wasn’t quite as pissy in NYC (probably because it’s not a good idea to be pissy with NYC crowds), he certainly didn’t seem too happy. And the band, which was inspiring and energized last time — well, I wondered if the band members were the same people. They seemed to follow the leader’s dour mood into the entropic state you described.
In NYC, Murphy only became fully undead not during his brief snippet of “Bela Lugosi” (interpolated during “A Strange Kind of Love”), but instead when singing the aforementioned “Your Face” (from one of my solo faves of his, the underrated, Turkish music-inspired Dust). His vocals were so impassioned during that last encore that he did bring the remaining faithful back toward the stage, huddled in silent awe. It was like Murphy wanted to remind everyone just how good he can be when he’s really into what he’s doing. And also maybe a kind of reproach, like he was saying, “This is great material, and you should have liked it more.”
“Your Face” brought me back to the tour for Dust, which I saw at its Toronto stop. That show remains one of the most mesmerizing concerts I’ve ever seen.
I don’t want to give the impression that this was a horrible show; it simply wasn’t up to Murphy’s own lofty standards, overall. And the idea of pairing Murphy with a band as obviously indebted to him as SWR sounded like a great idea, but somehow it didn’t quite turn out that way.
And I do have to wonder about people who have $50 to throw away, and who don’t even try to pay attention to what is happening onstage. Part of the problem was not just with Murphy and SWR — it was also with an audience that provided little in the way of energy or atmosphere….
I’ll stick with sticking the blame on the artists. Both are capable of more and better as I’ve witnessed on many occasions. The crowd here had the hunger as it were, but were ground down by the schizophrenic, yet samey sounding set of SWR and Peter’s wild mood shift. Seattle crowds are quite resilient, but were given precious little to bounce back with this night. That said, I’ll be first in line next tour, when everyone is better rested!
New York crowds, despite the city’s rep for nastiness, are usually pretty cool and attentive — but on this night, they were off in their own chit-chatty universe right from the start of the evening, so I’ll take a shot at them for that. But you are right that the onstage chemistry was just off on this tour, for whatever reason. But hey, I’m still picking Murphy’s Ninth as one of my top albums of the year.
Photos by Greg Cristman