LIVE REVIEW: PETER MURPHY AT LEE’S PALACE, TORONTO

It was a playful Peter Murphy who greeted his sweat-soaked, black-clad minions at Toronto’s Lee’s Palace Tuesday night. As imperious as always, despite some questionable fashion choices (which revealed both the former Bauhaus frontman’s age-appropriate gut and penchant for thong underwear), Murphy nevertheless managed to crack the occasional smile during his 90-minute set and revealed himself to have quite the arch sense of humour.

He and his three-piece band played a rambunctious, guitar-heavy set which included a raucous cover of The Stooges’ “Raw Power, several Bauhaus numbers (“Stigmata Martyr,” “Silent Hedges,” “Dark Entries,” “All We Ever Wanted Was Everything”) as well as a generous sampling from his own solo catalogue (“Subway,” “Strange Kind of Love,” “Low Room,” “Deep Ocean Vast Sea”). New material (“The Prince and Old Lady Shade,” “Uneven and Brittle”), expected to be on his next studio album “Ninth,” sounded promising.

At 53, Murphy doesn’t have the same dancer’s body or moves as he did in the Bauhaus days, but age has improved his baritone, making it a deep, strong instrument. He also continues to prove that all he needs is a footlight and those cheekbones to be able to invoke all the drama his music contains.

Most striking though was Murphy’s sense of humour. Always somewhat temperamental on stage (we once cut a 1990 Toronto show short when a fight broke out in the audience), the so-called Godfather of Goth actually spoke during the encore and proved himself quite the comedian, even taking questions from the audience at one point. That said, he was super serious about his performance, delivering the first encore, a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” with the requisite respect, and giving his all to the last few songs, including the newer Bauhaus track “Too Much 21st Century” and his biggest North American solo success, “Cuts You Up” (off his 1989 album Deep).

Murphy ended the evening with a raging version of David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust,” a signature Bauhaus cover, followed by the entire band collapsing on the stage as his cover of Bowie’s “Space Oddity” played over the speakers. Show over.

If Murphy is to be believed then he’ll be back in 2011 to support the fall release of Ninth.

Rating: 4.5/5

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