June 26, 2011
Detroit Bar, Costa Mesa
Apologies for no photo for this one, but then again had we attempted it from where we were most of the show it would have been little more than silhouetted audience members and Mr. Murphy himself looking commanding at a distance. We've been to some full shows at the Detroit Bar before but it was crazy packed this night and you could both see and, temperature-wise, feel it -- towards the end, Murphy commented, "Are you all hot out there? Because we're really hot up here."
He wasn't referring to looking good but it could go both ways, as there were more than enough tight black dresses and elegant ensembles in the audience while Murphy continues to show how to dress sharply and age gracefully -- anybody who both unashamedly rocks his bald spot and actually has a haircut that flatters it instead of trying to hide it badly gets our vote. But more importantly Murphy and his now established backing band of recent years put on a hell of a show, their second OC appearance this year and the first since the release of Ninth
, Murphy's first full solo effort in some years and one of his strongest.
It's a sign of how rich Murphy's considerable back catalog has become that the show was almost as notable for the songs that didn't make an appearance, most notably Ninth's striking centerpiece "The Prince and Old Lady Shade" and his commercial breakthrough "Cuts You Up." But when numbers like "Indigo Eyes," "Deep Ocean Vast Sea," "I'll Fall With Your Knife" and a concluding combination of "Marlene Dietrich's Favorite Poem" and "All Night Long" were on display, it's all good -- and of course there were some tips of the hat to Bauhaus, including "Silent Hedges" and an opening "Burning From the Inside" that shifted partway into Ninth's own first number "Velocity Burn."
Murphy's band throughout kept his trademark balance between understated atmospherics and full-on glam-inspired crunch intact -- the latter impulse getting its own nod with a fun cover of the Stooges' "Raw Power" -- while Murphy himself showcased a sense of theatricality and controlled stage moves with a puckish, generous humor that's always been an underrated part of his stage shows and persona in general. A tongue in cheek "Don't touch me!" to an audience member was just as rapidly followed up with a "You can touch me" to another, while he concluded a performance of the moody Ninth outtake "Gaslit" with a comment that he ended up leaving it off the album because he wanted the whole release to rock. You have to imagine him saying that last part in an American accent for the full effect, though.