Thursday, December 15, 2016

Old Man Yells At Crowd

(Or: Peter Murphy Show: Cambridge: Middle East Downstairs: 12-9-16)

I have always struggled to understand why we go to shows and concerts (specifically of the rock and pop variety). At a live jazz show we can marvel at the art of improvisation. At the symphony we can appreciate the influence of the conductor and the power of the orchestra amplified in a concert hall. But at rock and pop shows the audience is effectively paying to listen to an inferior version of the songs whose studio masters we already know by heart.

Why? To stand in awe of a star’s presence?... To see a man fall apart on stage and shout at several persons throughout the night?

A month before the show, when Silvia informed me that she had acquired tickets for us, I was optimistic about the evening's prospects, despite my aforesaid reservations. I recalled enjoying myself at the other two Peter Murphy shows I saw well over a decade ago.

Middle East’s “Downstairs” venue hosts a monthly goth-industrial club, Xmortis, and the Peter Murphy show is synergizing with said club night on this occasion.

When we arrive in Cambridge all I can think about is the cold. The cold.

The girls suggested we’d have no problem getting parking near the venue, and I sympathized with the desire to defy pricey coat checks. So I didn’t wear an overcoat or hat. This was a mistake.

My outfit: a thin v-neck t-shirt, a decorative (ineffective) Parisian scarf, a jacket with the insular strength of cheesecloth, cheap skinny jeans and thin boots. My toes remained numb until two hours after we were admitted indoors.

This was after standing in a half hour line outside in 20 degrees Fahrenheit weather. I was shivering violently.

The queue should not have been necessary, but one person alone was handling the sale of tickets, the Will Call, and the checking of IDs. The tip of the iceberg regarding the venue’s incompetence and apathy.

Apart from the bartenders, anyone who showed up to work that night wished they hadn’t.

Would the show have intentionally started an hour late even if the venue had managed to get people indoors on schedule? I’ll never know.

Before the show begins Silvia tells me that she has discovered that for $200 a pop attendees can participate in a meet and greet with Murphy after the show.

Sound problems caused loud pops and hisses for the first half of the show. Sound checks? Bah!

How cadaverous Peter Murphy looks, I can’t help but observe from the back of the hall. Is that an affect or mere entropy?

At 9:45pm Murphy trails out of a song by shouting. A few security guards can’t be bothered to have any regard for some white guy from the UK so they are eating their lunch on the side of his very small stage. They are as much on display as Murphy’s two accompanists.

“Fuck off out of my sight!... Don’t yell at me!”

In our society, the worst thing that can befall a human is being disrespected, so rather than show deference the three security guards challenge and threaten Murphy.

It’s an irony I’ve never been able to reconcile, that those who are hired to act as ‘Security’ are inevitably those from whom one most needs protection.

“Security’s challenging me? Seriously?” Murphy removed his guitar and left the stage.

The small part of me that counts the minutes until outings are over – that wants to go home where it is warm and read a book – is secretly hoping that the evening might come to an abrupt end.

Behind me, just outside the venue’s glass doors, security is being made to explain themselves. I can’t make out a word, I can only read demonstratively defensive body language.

Nine minutes later Murphy returned. Venue management, having no choice but to get involved, arranged for no more picnics to take place on stage during the show.

“This fuckin’ guy kicks three thousand dollars worth of [indecipherable]!” Then he launches into ‘King Volcano.’

Later, Silvia and I would compare notes, both surprised at the amount of Bauhaus songs in the playlist.

Between encore songs Murphy is rehashing the security issue. A mealy-mouthed person from the crowd apparently accuses him of bias against security because they were black.

“Fuck you, you fucking Boston cunt!”

Then it turns political. “Like the English haven’t been fucking racist against the Irish for centuries?!” One girl in the back is impressed by this point.

The election is brought up. Murphy soon declares that the heckler needs to go if he’s going to continue.

Then, after yet another confrontation that might’ve left me shaking if I were in his place, he goes right into the next song on the list. Is he not phased? Is this hostility normal? Is the performance of these tunes such rote memory that no real presence is required?

‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ is the final song. Silvia wonders if the performance were meant to emulate the opening scene from The Hunger.

Nashla, who disappeared hours ago, managed to wiggle her way to the front of the stage. Her vantage point plus her double whiskey equal the decree that it was a great show.

I can’t help but reflect on the previous two Peter Murphy shows I had seen, which were graceful, beautiful, harmonious, and full of his solo work rather than dissonant Bauhaus classics. The clunky analogy I cannot get out of my head is Rocky to Rocky V. In the former an earnest champ performs valiantly and inspires. In the latter a punch-drunk has-been is getting into fights in the alley for nickels.

The DJ begins spinning tunes. The lights eventually dim. The club Xmortis commences. The goths and rivetheads begin dancing on a floor decorated with dozens of plastic cups and empty beer cans.

Silvia points out that the DJ actually uses folders of CDs rather than a laptop. I’m impressed. His selections are good. I can’t bring myself to dance but am happy that the girls can and are.