Philadelphia, PA, Trocadero Theatre, 11/19/2011
The main floor at Philadelphia’s Trocadero Theatre was filled and the balconies were packed, populated with those eager to catch a performance of a true originator of the scene. The man himself, the “Godfather of Goth,” Bauhaus front man Peter Murphy was in the house. 2011 was a year of almost nonstop touring for Murphy, and this night was one of 31 dates supported by dark post-punk favorites She Wants Revenge.
The moment She Wants Revenge steps out on stage, one could feel the coolness radiating. Fast, droning guitars, black leather jackets, and absolutely no smiling, their music blurs the line between post-punk and dark indie dance in a way that many others have tried to imitate. She Wants Revenge songs often deal with the topic of human train wrecks, with lead singer Justin Warfield taking on the role of humble narrator. Promoting their third album Valleyheart, Warfield and Adam Bravin are backed by the powerful rhythm section of Thomas Froggatt on guitar and Scott Ellis on drums. The result is a hypnotic wall of grinding melancholy dance rock, the signature sounds of She Wants Revenge. Throughout the crowd, you can spot hardcore fans mouthing all the words to songs like “Red Flags and Long Nights” and “Save Your Soul.” One can’t help but wonder if some real life train wrecks are in the audience waiting to hear “their song.” Surprisingly, the band chose to do a stripped down version of their most popular song, “These Things,” accompanied by cathedral-like organs and absolutely no drums. Switching gears again, the newer song “Take the World” possesses a late ’90s groove and some keyboard riffs that provide a temporary detour from the guitar-dominated set. The crowd explodes with approval as the beat to “Tear You Apart” kicks off. By the end of the set, the band has loosened up a bit, with Warfield letting down his guard enough to thank the crowd for being there. Saving the disco nightmare of “Out of Control” for last, She Wants Revenge ends the set on a high note.
The stage is set for Peter Murphy.
The show starts with a song from the Love Hysteria album, “All Night Long.” As Murphy emerges from the shadows, the entire theatre erupts with joy. When an artist of this caliber performs, you get to see the rare older Goths who have stopped going to loud concerts. Many are neatly dressed in formal wear out of reverence for an artist whose music has resonated deeply throughout his more than 30-year career. With the song “Velocity Bird,” Murphy displays the stage presence of a great thespian, gesturing dramatically, pacing around. Despite his legendary status, Peter Murphy is not relaxing into mediocre mellowness as all the songs from his new album Ninth, like “Peace to Each,” “I Spit Roses,” and “Memory Go” sound energetic and fresh.
Murphy’s backing band – featuring Mark Thwaite on guitars, Nick Lucero on drums, and Jeff Shartoff on bass and violins – helped add an edgy power to the familiar favorites like “Subway” and “Deep Ocean Vast Sea.” A reverb drenched violin weaves effortlessly through the arrangements of the adored “A Strange Kind of Love.” Thwaite’s massive sounding guitars on “Uneven & Brittle” combined with Murphy’s trademark powerful voice fill up the entire theatre, destroying any doubts. Murphy himself breaks out a 12-string guitar for an acoustic version of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” that managed to conjure up the haunting original version fairly well. It would have been nice to hear a full treatment for the song, complete with Daniel Ash style guitar feedback, but this more intimate version was still memorable. It was impressive to see him flip on the dark light a few times with some Bauhaus songs like “In the Flat Fields” and “Silent Hedges.”
Delivering a stunning, nearly hour-and-a-half long performance, which touched on many favorites of his performing career, Murphy returns for an encore that included the dark and atmospheric “The Three Shadows, Part I” and “Marlene Dietrich’s Favourite Poem.” With the audience high on nostalgia, he launches into the most famous single of his solo career, “Cuts You Up.” To the delight of everyone attending, Murphy and company close the show with an epic rendition of “Ziggy Stardust,” which received thunderous applause and stomping from the balcony.
Lüke Haughwout (Mechanical_Harvest)
Photographs by Mandi Martini (Mandi_Martini)
She Wants Revenge