This was a rough night, and that wasn’t Peter Murphy’s fault. The band’s tour bus broke down, reportedly around Joshua Tree, so the show was doomed to a late start time. The press list was with the bus, so I was left stuck outside the venue for two hours while that got sorted out. Fortunately, the crew at Napa’s Uptown Theater were tremendous and they eventually got me taken care of.
The theater itself was a beautiful old 850 seater with no more than a narrow aisle separating the front row from the stage. Normally I would say it doesn’t get anymore intimate than that, but tonight it did: The old place was only maybe a quarter filled.
I assumed that the crowd would be a Goth-style fashion show, considering that the evening was dedicated solely to Bauhaus, but sadly no. Most of the crowd would’ve looked at home at any of the numerous wine tasting sites peppering the Napa region. There were a few sharp-dressed folks, though, and I managed to get at least one photo.
Before the show I was stopped by a woman who had flown in from New Jersey for the gig. This was her 93rd Peter Murphy show, and she was gunning for 100. She asked me if I was limited to shooting only the first three songs, which I was, and she laughed and said, “Peter isn’t going to give you anything. If you see any light just shoot and hope for the best.”
I’m prone to migraines, and I felt one coming on just before Murphy took the stage, but I figured I could suck it up long enough to get some shots. No flashes were allowed, and as I was warned the stage lighting was incredibly dark.
But Peter Murphy was brilliant, prowling the stage and emoting. The security guard standing next to me leaned over and said, “He must have been the shit back in the day,” and I gave him the old-timer ‘you don’t know the half of it’ head nod. Murphy worked his way through the Bauhaus catalog, and I felt like I was back in art school again. Here’s the set list:
- King Volcano
- Kingdoms Coming
- Double Dare
- In the Flat Field
- God in an Alcove
- Silent Hedges
- Endless Summer
- Spy in the Cab
- Strange Kind of Love
- Bela Legosi’s Dead
- Kick in the Eye
- The Passion of Lovers
- Dark Entries
On the way home, migraine in full bloom, I was caught in a road construction traffic jam with all of the bright lights that implies. Overall, it was just not a good night.
This morning I pulled up the photos and found not one usable shot. My New Jersey friend was right: Murphy gave me nothing. But then I started working with the pictures, and these weird, Francis Bacon-like portraits started emerging that better captured listening to Bauhaus with a migraine than any clear images ever could. Never mind the migraine, these photos just look like how Peter Murphy and Bauhaus sound to me. I think part of it is that they imply the kind of moody, surreal images that made such great album covers in the post-punk era.
Anyway, here they are. They are garbage as a historical record of that night in Napa, but as an emotional representation they’re pretty accurate: