Monday, May 02, 2005

Bauhaus Delivers @ Coachella

From a review by Ben Wener (OC Register):

Bauhaus, Daniel Ash and the ghost of Ian Curtis– “This is not a rock show,” Peter Murphy noted not long into Bauhaus’ hour, and he’s right: It was Goth-rock performance art from the start, with Murphy, the recluse from Turkey, suspended upside-down by wires, looking like a hibernating vampire bat as he sinisterly crooned and wailed his way through “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” He rarely let up with such theatrics, toying with a giant Gandalfian cane for “Stigmata Martyr,” occasionally rising to an on-stage tower to get a better view of the crowd, often making absurd flailing movements.

Yes, he can get hammy, more Peter Gabriel at his worst than David Bowie at his best, and his Dracula-like blah-blah-blah low vocals can get wearisome. Thank goodness the camerawork and visual effects on the jumbo screens were so effective (as they were later for Coldplay), enhancing the group’s mystique with grainy black-and-white shots and extreme close-ups of moustachioed Murphy that made him look like an albino Grinch.

But whenever Bauhaus verged on the cartoonish, the band would correct itself, thanks largely to one of the two Kings of Jagged Guitar, Daniel Ash.

Kiddies, it’s like this: Ash and Gang of Four’s Andy Gill are the Englishmen responsible for all your precious Bloc Partys and Faints and Braverys. Yet both group’s music gives rise these days only to small but extremely devoted cults whose dark obsessiveness can become off-putting; you can spot a Bauhaus fan here from 50 paces. Such costuming can obscure the brilliance of Ash – a Goth Jimmy Page, who undercuts his nerve-fraying jaggedness with psychedelic squalls of noise – and the funky, brotherly rhythm section of drummer Kevin Haskins and bassist David J (also a Haskins).

Those L.A.-based players – the ones who once comprised Love and Rockets – have been to Coachella before. No doubt they’ve often imagined what they’d do here, and their selections were telling: the 12-string Mexicali feel of “The Passion of Lovers” seguing into the equally evocative “Silent Hedges,” for instance, or the fading cries of “Dark Entries,” dedicated to Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis, dead 25 years this month.

Bauhaus’ set, then, was something of a seance, a summoning of Curtis’ spirit, which is prevalent in so much of this fest’s music. I imagine he’s looking down at the moment, perpetually dour yet gravely romantic about it, waiting to see if his old mates in New Order can do his words justice Sunday evening.


Anonymous said...

Oops - I mean to blog this at my news blog

Jim H

Jim H said...

Bela Lugosi's Dad - Radio Savage Houndy Beasty (

Loki said...

you're absolutely right about Daniel Ash... a guitarist hugely underrated because he looks a bit daft in retrospect (God knows what he looks like now)... if he'd worn an old suit, cut his hair and ditched the painted on bruises we'd all be fussing over his post-punk credentials

Jim H said...

To be fair, Ben Wener wrote that and I failed at giving him credit. When I get home I'll correct that in the posting. But I posted it because I agree with him and thought it a bit sad that one of the major events at Coachella didn't get a big crowd because everyone went to Bloc Party, a band which will be playing a lot over the next few years...