Peter Murphy did not sing “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” hanging upside down like a bat at the Henry Fonda Music Box Theatre on Friday, as he did in the Bauhaus reunion at the recent Coachella music festival. That was probably for the best. Do that too much and it’s just shtick.
In fact, he didn’t do “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” -- the 1979 Bauhaus song that made him a goth-rock god -- in any posture at all in his solo concert Friday. That was probably for the best too. Most of the fans appeared to have outgrown the more extreme attachments to goth affectations.
Not that he completely stayed away from gothness. The Englishman (who lives in Istanbul) started the show cloaked in a lustrous blue-velvet trench coat, and with his bleached-blond hair sculpted into an Ed Grimley spike looked as if he were auditioning for the Riff Raff role in a “Rocky Horror Show” revival. And he played up his eccentric countenance, at times brandishing a 6-foot staff as he prowled the stage, singing with a lugubriously dark tone.
But he also emphasized the romantic undercurrents of his material, especially on the melodically inviting songs from his most recent album, last year’s “Unshattered.” Unfortunately, his stripped-down three-piece band played everything with pretty much the same density, undermining any emotional nuance.
What was not downplayed was Murphy’s long-standing worship of David Bowie. He even quoted Bowie’s “I’m Afraid of Americans” (changing it to “I’m not afraid of Americans”) in a between-song greeting, and as always filled his vocals with Bowie-esque mannerisms. And for an encore he did a barely rehearsed but spirited version of the Bowie-produced Iggy Pop classic “Lust for Life,” exaggeratedly reading the lyrics from paper taped to the floor -- but right-side up.