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Pop Music Review : Peter Murphy: Iceman At The Palace

February 28, 1987|CHRIS WILLMAN

Ex-Bauhaus singer Peter Murphy made his film debut in the vampire flick "The Hunger" and has made known his desire to win the lead role in the eventual film version of "Interview With a Vampire." His considerable debt to David Bowie owes more to the reclusive Thin White Duke persona of a decade ago than to the tanned chap who replaced him.

With all that in mind, is it any wonder that the crowd that showed up to pack the Palace for Murphy's show Thursday included the largest congregate of pasty-white faces this side of a New England winter?

Cold pretty well characterizes not only the look but also the sound of Murphy, a skilled and agile performer whose charisma is right up front, but whose content and purposes are hard to read. Beyond his flair for theatricality, any real human emotion seems to have been carefully hidden in a maze of impenetrable singing and opaque wordplay--something you couldn't quite say about Bowie even in his most removed middle period.

The fine quartet that backed Murphy frequently put fire into even the most droning of his compositions, with arrangements highlighting the type of guitar lines rock critics like to call "angular." Melody is not his strong point, but then he doesn't show much interest in making it so. Nor does his emphasis on mood allow the music to work as catharsis. Even the songs that move at a fast clip have the general tone of a hangover, though the energized encore of Pere Ubu's "Final Solution" (the best cut from his current record) warmed things up considerably.

So: Imaginative use of stark lighting by the crew; neat arrangements via the band; fair dancing and dramaturgy from the front man. But is there a human to latch onto there amid all the aloof, minor-key inarticulateness? Only Murphy's acting coach--and maybe the most dedicated investigative import record buyers--know for sure. Baby, it's cold inside.

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