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Peter Murphy
ALive Just For Love (Live)

The Players:
Peter Murphy – Vocals, 12 string
Hugh Marsh – Electric Violin
Peter DiStefano – Electric & Synthesized guitar

Murphy has always played the textures of his versatile throat like an instrument. He tried to make it part of a combo, and blessed us with ground breaking work in Bauhaus. But even then, the conflict was based on the fact that he is essentially a soloist. Overshadowing doesn’t sit well with other musicians--especially talented ones. The work since has been a fascinating exploration of sounds and philosophies. That, and half-hearted attempts to shed his Gothfather image. Former Pyro Peter DiStefano is no stranger to backing a flashy frontman. His contribution is essentially energy, not innovation. Alongside Warren Ellis, and Andrew Bird, Hugh Marsh is one of the most sought after yet still relevant violinists in circulation. As Murphy offhandedly introduces them, Marsh is a musician if ever there was one, and DiStefano is from California. An unintentional, but acceptable comment. So with this pared-down vision, and The Voice, they hit the road. Like Gun & Doll Show’s live record, this is recorded truly live as it happened.

Murphy presents himself in "Cool Cool Breeze" a cappella. Warming up his instrument and the audience with unashamed nakedness. His tendency to play with sonics by gesturing the mike from his mouth and back was distracting and uncomfortable during the performance. Here we find from the recording, that it really added nothing to audio. What is lost from the goofy technique is the concentration of both performer and audience. Cradle that mike! Ply it in tender ways, rather than fellating it. When we attended this tour, Murphy was fighting a cold and immediately choked on the opening words. He cleared his throat, said, "’Scuse me," and continued to insane applause. Unfortunate that the human connection he made with this imperfection isn’t evident here. The audience here is appreciative, but I know better. With precision, Marsh begins to pluck out "All Night Long" like some low-end music box. DiStefano’s strumming is energetic, but muddied by the mix. I think this is what I refer to when I ask people to bring the vocals forward. I’ve heard so much Murphy, that I think this is where the singing belongs. And I am right. Murphy also plays with the sound as it fits in his mouth. He propels syllables with cheeks of elastic.

"Keep Me From Harm" has Marsh picking while faux flute noises rise from the set. His electric fiddle sweeps deliver the resolve. Murphy gives this new life, as most of Holy Smoke went unnoticed. Perennial favorite "Indigo Eyes" disappoints no one, as Marsh’s depth makes it seem like adoring. The tones are rich and soothing. Murphy’s voice is medicine. His take on Pet Clark on Cascade’s "Subway" is even creepier than the album version. The ghost is allowed more substance than the synthetic danceable original. Warbling guitar and gothic keys while Murphy stretches out plaintively. Marsh is left to make himself at home, wandering about exploring the cracks of the piece, sometimes making out like John Zorn. The vocal line trumpets across phrases proudly. Here DiStefano puts out glows that diminish and resound.

The decision to forgo more slippery pop forays like "Scarlet Thing" is rewarded with syllabic mastery of "I’ll Fall With Your Knife." Simple electric guitar and pipe whacking are all that’s needed to augment Murphy’s poetic rantings. DiStefano reads this song as garage rock. An interesting if not successful interpretation, it pushes Murphy to an energy apart from the studio. "Marlene Dietrich" is expected and lovely. "Strange Kind Of Love" is lacking in strength both from violin and Murphy’s guitar. The Voice, however, is lush and cool. The punctuation Marsh presents on "The Last Two Weeks" with the comforting piano allows Murphy to soar his best. Everything about this number is simple and expressive. Some of Murphy’s recent gems were lost in the re-packaging frenzy of label switches, including the beautiful and Bowiest composition in some time, "Big Love Of A Tiny Fool." It’s got a sea-faring feel that holds up to the traditions of Christy Moore.

"Gliding Like a Whale"’s introduction of flanged guitar and sequenced drums seems welcomed by the crowd. But it’s a little jarring in the context of this package of songs. It’s an odd choice as well--not one of his showcase pieces or a real crowd pleaser. "Cuts You Up" is a little slower than we’re accustomed. This is the prime example of how he tastes the words. Savoring them in his mouth and examining the textures and echoes. The ridiculous microphone masturbating shows through even more on "Time Has Got Nothing To Do With It." Our ears are used to compensating for vocal irregularities on their own. Now they have to work twice as hard to suss out the dynamics created by this unnecessary intrusion. The keyboard tinkling is also the timekeeper. Marsh lays out some wild analog sounding runs. The song has always stood on it’s own. Murphy’s humility and fan appreciation is nicely tapped, as he includes audience members singing and enjoying themselves in "Angelic Harmony." What more fitting than these fans singing lovingly?

Like Pearl Jam’s secret club, Disc 2 is a bonus for old-timers more attached to nostalgic novelties than good singing. Sounding as endearingly sloppy as Paul Weller, David J joins him for "Who Killed Mr. Moonlight." More accurately, Murphy sings backup, to little success. He reaches gruffly on "All We Ever Wanted", which is one of my favorites of all time. This version of the rare "Hope" is messy as well, but well played and inspirational. It’s an ale-swinging, bar-buddy good time swagger. The unrecognizable take on "Love Me Tender" sounds mostly improvised. Slow, loose, and weird like The Swans doing, "I Wanna Be Your Dog."

I’d recommend this to long-time fans who missed the tour, or have fond memories of it like I do. Part of Murphy’s inability to slip the surly bonds of Bauhaus is that the fans are unwilling to let go. With the reunion a couple of years back, and the renewed familiarity with the lads, I think he’s discovered what his beloved fans have known. Sometimes you have to go back in order to go forward. I think they’ll be more ready now too.

— Ewan Wadharmi

Track Listing:

Disc: 1 The Concert Proper

  1. Cool Cool Breeze
  2. All Night Long
  3. Keep Me From Harm
  4. Indigo Eyes
  5. Subway
  6. I'll Fall With Your Knife
  7. Marlene Dietrich's Favourite Poem
  8. A Strange Kind Of Love
  9. My Last Two Weeks
  10. Big Love Of A Tiny Fool
  11. Gliding Like A Whale
  12. Cuts You Up
  13. Time Has Got Nothing To Do With It
  14. Angelic Harmony

Disc: 2 Midnight Encore

  1. Who Killed Mr. Moonlight
  2. All We Ever Wanted Was Everything
  3. Hope (Midnight Proposal)
  4. Love Me Tender

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