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Peter Murphy, Livan, Rialto Theatre, Tuesday, March 15

Those of us who slithered our way through the goth scene many years ago understand that Peter Murphy was, arguably, the backbone of the movement.

Whether he was fronting the groundbreaking band Bauhaus in the late 1970s and early 1980s or going solo, his easily distinguished resonant vocal tone simultaneously comforted you and made you want to run away. Now, after seeing him live for the first time, I can assure you: Running shoes aren't necessary.

Livan, a five-piece glam-goth rock outfit from London, opened the show. While musically adept, they were on the manufactured side, employing classic (but not well-received) rock 'n' roll tactics in an attempt to garner enthusiasm. The vocalist sported a superb pair of red jeans and was affable enough, but the only thing that really drew attention was the drummer. His lightning-fast stick-flipping, mega-tattooed chest and barely contained energy saved Livan from being completely written off.

Peter Murphy's performance was a gothic version of VH1 Storytellers. His band politely hid in the shadows while he bathed in the spotlight. Between songs, he showered the audience with questions (before politely waiting for answers) and conversed as though we were all hanging out in the lobby. I had yet to see anyone pull off that kind of stunt successfully at the Rialto. He practiced his Tucson accent (quite successfully); told us that when his son was 6, the kid told him he couldn't believe people paid to hear him sing; and was self-deprecating about his expanding waistline. After decades of touring, he knows how to work a crowd.

Murphy's set consisted of songs from throughout his expansive career, including "Memory Go," from his upcoming release, Ninth; "Silent Hedges," a Bauhaus track; and major hits such as "Cuts You Up" from Deep, as well as my personal favorite song from that album, "Marlene Dietrich's Favourite Poem." He covered "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails, boasting about his version's greatness, with "no disrespect to Johnny Cash."

Peter Murphy still possesses his almighty vocal strength, which sent chills up and down his fans' spines. The combination of his classic bird pose, his engagement with the crowd, his see-through-you stare and his congeniality made the evening one that will stick in my memory for some time.

More by Mel Mason

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