Live albums almost always are a hit-or-miss affair. Few reach the heights of the likes of Spiritualized’s Live at the Royal Albert Hall. On the album, the band’s music expands into a grand, overwhelming sound only hinted at on the studio albums. Instead, most live albums scrape the absolute bottom of the barrel.
The seminal 1980s group Bauhaus enters the pools of live albums with its latest – and with the way things are looking, its last – album, Gotham (Metropolis). The two-disc live album falls in the middle of the rating scale, although it does at times lean toward greatness instead of trash.
Gotham contains music from Bauhaus’ concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York in 1998. The show was part of its Resurrection Tour. On the tour, the four members of Bauhaus played together for the first time in 15 years. Bauhaus has long been known as the Godfathers of Goth. In the band’s short career in the early 1980s, the band established many hallmarks of the style, including the doom-laden sound, makeup and atmosphere.
And the atmosphere the group created is evident from the opening track Double Dare. The roar of the crowd can be heard as the band breaks into a colliding sound that sounds like a Frankenstein monster that was let loose on stage. Over the chaos, Peter Murphy sings in a voice that comes straight from the crypt and full of drama. As the song progresses, the band picks up steam and energy.
On the reunion tour, the band played all of its old standards, such as In the Flat Field, A God In An Alcove and In Fear of Fear. These songs set the precedent for what later became Goth music. Screeching and howling guitars mix with a heavy bass and pounding drums, and lyrics of dark imagery sit on top of the music. And from all the cheers and cries on the album, even 15 years later, the crowd ate it up.
But it was not all gloom and doom for Bauhaus, a characteristic that help set them apart from and above the Gothic scene the band helped to create. Kick In the Eye has a funky bass line and strut that would fit perfectly on Solid Gold. One noteworthy inclusion on Gotham is the song Boys, which previously was difficult to find. The song is one of Bauhaus’ best. It takes the band back to its glam roots, sounding more like something Marc Bolon or David Bowie – two of the band’s obvious heroes – would have recorded.
Disc two contains a tribute to Bauhaus’ glam influences with its biggest hit, a cover of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. It probably is the only Bowie cover to be better than the original. The second disc also includes a cover of T-Rex’s Telegram Sam.
Spirit is positively upbeat with a festive air. And of course, no Bauhaus album would be complete without the Goth anthem Bela Legosi’s Dead, probably the best gothic song ever recorded.
As live albums go, Gotham is one of the better ones. You can get a good sense of the energy and power this band has on stage. But there are some flaws. One is in the choice of songs. Other songs, such as Mask or Hair of the Dog, would have been a welcome addition to the album.
Also, the second disc is pretty skimpy with only five live songs and a studio version of another one. It seems they’re making people pay for two discs, when actually they are getting one and a half. And while the set may sound great, without seeing the band’s amazing stage show you’re missing half of the fun.
Still, Gotham isn’t for the causal fan of Bauhaus. It’s an album strictly for all the diehards out there. Gotham is certainly a fine way for this influential and amazing band to end its career.