Photos by Rachael Barbash
40 years is a long time. 40 years of a musical partnership is not only a long time, but most impressive. So even if the Bauhaus name wasn’t on the marquee, the Ruby Celebration that Bauhaus bassist David J and frontman Peter Murphy brought to the Columbus Athenaeum Thursday night, the history of their musical partnership and the band’s vast influence was felt everywhere. The musical legacy of the now defunct Bauhaus could be visually seen on the black t-shirts of the audience members. Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Type O Negative, etc. While some of the audience no doubt grew up on the music of Bauhaus, many attendees such as myself likely discovered them through the rich dark rock influence they left on a new generation of now legendary acts. And the paid tribute to that legacy through a set comprised entirely of Bauhaus classics, including the In the Flat Field album, as well as a set of greatest hits and deep cuts.
The cold marble and ornate fixtures of the Columbus Atheneum provided the perfect setting for the evening. David J’s deep bass rumbling announced the beginning of the performance of In the Flat Field with the thunderous opening riff of “Double Dare” with vocalist Peter Murphy announcing “I dare you, to be real”. From there, as promised the band rolled through the Flat Field album in it’s entirety with the audience swaying and dancing to the goth rock grooves. While the album’s origin lies in gloomy London, the lyrics of the titular track “In the Flat Field” always seemed appropriate to the equally grey skies and barren landscape of the Midwest during the winter. “I get bored, I do get bored, in the flat field.” I couldn’t help but wonder if that sentiment as experienced the audience as teens isn’t at least part of what helped fill the venue to near capacity 40 years later.
As the Flat Field full album played concluded the band continued on with no encore break, performing a set of Bauhaus hits. The camera phones were in full force as Murphy donned a dark cape for perhaps the band’s most ubiquitous hit, the eternal “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” If you have been to a Halloween party that didn’t have that track on the playlist, or one of your favorite bands hasn’t covered this tune then well, what did you buy your ticket for? Peter’s lugubrious vocals filled the room as the audience sang along, “undead, undead, undead.” Murphy seemed to be in good spirits throughout the night and his voice was particularly on point, despite a couple of guitar sound issues with feedback throughout the show. And while a band celebrating 40 years doesn’t seem like the most likely candidates to have a rowdy audience, there were a few moments of audience members running across the stage, which was a bit surprising given the average age of the audience members. Perhaps they were indeed channelling their misspent youth. The band was not phased and continued on into the classic “She’s in Parties” and “Kick in the Eye”. When the main set concluded they have already performed and impressive 19 songs and returned for a two song encored that included Dead Can Dance’s “Severance.”
The show was a rare opportunity to see absolute legends of music perform some of their most vital and influential material. While I never like to imagine seeing any band is the absolute last chance to witness them perform, any time you see a band celebrating 40 years, you certainly can’t take the opportunity for granted (looking at last Fall’s Killing Joke show at Skully’s here too). And for a market like Columbus that isn’t obligatory on any tour routing, hats off to Peter Murphy and David J, as well as promoter Celebrity Etc for bringing this show to town. The addition of a somewhat larger but still intimate venue like the Columbus Athenaeum has brought some of the last year’s more interesting and inspired bookings to town and the crowd showed their appreciation by solidly selling the show on a cold Thursday in February. And regardless if you were a fan from the beginning getting perhaps one last dance with the dark rock legends, or checking the show off of your musical bucket list, it was a lovely evening of gloomy tunes that Columbus won’t soon forget.