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Pop Music Reviews : Peter Murphy: A Creepy, Feline, Reptilian Presence

A puff of fog, a synthesized violin, and it’s gloom-rock hero Peter Murphy, close-cropped hair protruding like a blond parsnip, posed like St. Sebastian on stage at the Wiltern Theatre on Thursday. You’ve heard of the Thin White Duke? Murphy is thinner, whiter, more aristocratic in bearing. He’s the sort of performer who always seems to know, within a degree or two, the angle at which his cheekbones glint most fetchingly in the sea-green spotlight.

He’d crouch leonine on a stack of amplifiers and pounce, not skipping a beat. He suffered, even as he danced, under lighting designed to look like moaty sunbeams filtering into a subterranean prison cell.

When Murphy sang, he directed his words up into the flies and winced, as if imploring the Almighty. Murphy’s voice is a cross between Bowie and “Lust for Life"-era Iggy; his music a slightly jazzier take on the spare, two-chord death-rock formula (which he helped invent with Bauhaus, the Led Zeppelin of the genre); his performance spectacular, feline, reptilian, letter-perfect, creepier than Malcolm McDowell at the height of his powers.

Exene Cervenka, another ex-lead singer of a dark, religion-obsessed ensemble (X), opened with a quiet, powerful set of neo-country, her flat, quavering voice made strong by a band that included X’s Tony Gilkyson on guitar. Thin White Rope is scheduled as the opening act for the final night of Murphy’s Wiltern stand tonight.

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