At 54 years old, the goth rock elder statesman Peter Murphy, who performed to a packed house at the Bluebird Theater on Monday night, is still putting out solid and thoughtful work. His excellent new album “Ninth” offers up a hard-rocking continuation of his former band Bauhaus reunited swan song “Go Away White” from 2008. Clearly inspired by the sound, Murphy and his band concentrated on a number of tunes from the latest record for this evening’s setlist while mixing them up with some old favorites and “deep” cuts.
The lithe Mr. Murphy, dressed stylishly in black, began the evening with “All Night Long” from 1988’s “Love Hysteria” before tearing into a 1-2-3 of new songs highlighted by the Stooges-styled rocker “Peace For Each.”
Ever artful, Murphy danced and stretched across the stage in yoga-like positions. His voice sounded great throughout the evening, however he was often buried in the muddy sound mix of the Bluebird. And, much to Murphy’s dismay, the venue’s staff never quite got the mix right. Frustrated, but not deterred, Murphy still managed to give his all.
A further frustration, during quieter songs the inane chatter of lesser-interested attendees overshadowed much of the impressive work that was being done on stage by Murphy and his backing band.
Much to his fans delight, he ended the acoustic “Strange Kind of Love” singing lines from the Bauhaus classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” As a further nod to his prior band, Murphy and company performed strong versions of the atmospheric rocker “The Silent Hedges” and glam rock riff-heavy “Too Much 21st Century.”
The entrancing, moody “Subway” from 1995’s “Cascade” saw Murphy switch to keyboards for a change. And its like-minded follow-up, the hypnotic “Gaslit,” was a standout among his new material.
Following a few more songs — including a strong crowd-sing-along during “Deep Ocean, Vast Sea” the band exited the stage, but quickly returned for an encore.
Murphy, now in a fez and flowing white shirt, with 12-string guitar in hand, began the chords to Bauhaus’ “Three Shadows Part 1″ before switching to the lushly gorgeous “Marlene Dietrich’s Favorite Poem.”
The band quickly followed-up with the ’90s pop hit “Cuts You Up” before jumping into the final song, a signature take on the David Bowie classic “Ziggy Stardust.” Prior to the first iconic chords, Murphy reached into the crowd and pulled a fiery haired young girl — dressed exactly like Bowie in his Ziggy days — up to the stage. Reportedly she had been waiting outside the theater since 3 p.m. to get in and get right up front. Murphy draped his arms around her and sang with her for the rousing closing number.
Michael Behrenhausen is a Denver-based writer, musician and regular Reverb contributor. The worst crime he ever did was play some rock ‘n’ roll.