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Bauhaus Live At The Masonic, San Francisco

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Photos By Liane Chan and Judy Lyon

Bauhaus recently reunited for their first set of tour dates in over 15 years. They launched off with a bang at their Cruel World Festival headlining dates in Pasadena followed by a string of West Coast dates. Unfortunately, the tour abruptly came to an end in Denver with Peter Murphy having non-Covid-related health issues. Denver and Tempe were both promptly postponed until further notice. The tour has since continued in Europe. Prior to this, Bauhaus played a small handful of dates at The Hollywood Palladium in 2019 and Mexico and London in late 2021.

The COVID pandemic put an end to any extended tour plans, until now.

There was no denying the fact that Bauhaus was back in full swing when Peter Murphy’s face was in full command on the big screen at their recent shows at Cruel World Fest, reminiscent of the first few reunion shows at The Hollywood Palladium in 1998. During those shows, the very first glimpse of Bauhaus since their initial break-up was Murphy’s lit up visage on a TV screen singing to the audience from backstage while the rest of the band played in the dark. Two and a half decades later, the feeling and excitement was very much the same when the band first hit the stage.

Vinsantos warmed up the night with his live music, storytelling, and costumery. As a musician, Vinsantos coins himself as a “Drag Cabaret Act.” He takes a modern approach on the traditional style of the Weimar Cabaret scene from the 1920s. He made such a lasting impression on the audience that they hollered and egged him on for more!

At The Masonic in San Francisco (May 21, 22), the band didn’t dig all that deep into their catalog—the set list was also somewhat shortened and left little wiggle room for rarities and deeper cuts. The set list contained what was more of a greatest hits list that started off with “Rose Garden Funeral of Sores” (a John Cale cover), followed by one of my personal live favorites, “Double Dare.” This song in particular sums up everything that I love about seeing Bauhaus live.

The San Francisco shows were no exception as the song started off with David J’s deep iconic bass line, followed by Daniel Ash’s snarling otherworldly guitar sounds, along with Kevin Haskins’ relentless and unforgiving drum beats. The whole arrangement was driven by Murphy’s soaring vocals. Other highlights to their set included hits and fan favorites: “In The Flat Field,” “She’s In Parties,” “Dark Entries,” “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” and “Stigmata Martyr.”

On the second night David J threw a black towel over his head for “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” and plucked his bass cords as if he were a bat swaying in the light. Murphy was more cautious around his mic stand as he hoisted it above his head for “Stigmata Martyr” (he tripped and fell over a mic stand on-stage at the Cruel World Fest). The band ended with an encore of covers: Iggy Pop’s”Sister Midnight,” T-Rex’s “Telegram Sam,” and Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust.” On the second night in SF, Murphy pulled one lucky fan up on stage to help sing the tail end of the final song, (“Ziggy Stardust”) and David J hugged his Brother Kevin, before leaving the stage.

The Masonic in San Francisco was the least appealing visually when compared to their previous shows, like PDX, Seattle). The stage set up was also very basic—standard lights with a black curtain backdrop, with no extras. Some of their stage set design in the past added an artistic dynamic to the overall show. Stage lighting was lacking in substance and contrast this go around and seemed pretty standard. This is unusual for them as the lighting was always an intrinsic part of the show. The lights were noticeably different and some fans were even complaining that the lights were too bright and even blinding at times when pointed towards the audience. As far as the band’s wardrobe went, David J and Kevin wore a dark casual ensemble, whereas it was all about dark glam between Peter and Daniel. Daniel was clearly the winner with his cascading white ruffles, iridescent black overcoat and white cat shades.

As musicians, the band was very much in tune with the music—strong and in sync. Murphy’s voice peaked at brilliance. I never would have seen an illness coming just two days later when the Denver show was postponed.

As a long-time fan and journalist, I feel like this is a band that was just going through the motions, without any emotion. Perhaps there is turmoil behind the scenes that affected the overall dynamic? This would not be unusual for them to be fighting right before a show as that type of behavior has been well documented over the years. There was definitely tension in the air. I will note that Kevin, Daniel and David all arrived together at the same time to the venue, whereas Peter arrived separately. They connected with the audience and with the music but not so much with each other. Would I go and see another show on this tour? Absolutely!

The show that they put on overruled any nuances that may have been felt by the audience. As individual musicians, they were top notch and showed zero signs of slowing down! But I do treasure those past tour moments when, as a band, they embraced the entire show and each other.