Love and Rockets
The Fox Theater, Oakland
May 21, 2023
Photos by Raymond Ahner.
It appears time travel may be possible after all, and evidence points to the nexus bridging the decades as being the influential British alternative rock bands of the 80s. A check of concert listings over the last couple of weeks shows the likes of The Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, and Duran Duran headlining Bay Area stages.
However, it will be hard for any of these shows to be as fresh and on fire as the recent Love and Rockets show at The Fox Theater in Oakland. They were simply fucking brilliant, as they kicked off their current (and supposedly final) tour.
Love and Rockets, who emerged from the embers of the seminal death rock juggernaut Bauhaus’ demise in 1983, were formed as the trio of ex-Bauhaus mates (Daniel Ash – vox / guitars, Kevin Haskins – drums, David J – vox / bass), decided they still had a shared musical spark and a desire to record and perform that new music.
Initially, fans and the music press figured that Love and Rockets would follow in the dark footprints of Bauhaus in sound and style, and many critics could not envision a successful path forward without the baritone and stage presence of mesmerizing front man Peter Murphy.
What the skeptics did not count on was the new musical vision and stellar execution that would emerge without Murphy’s diva persona and derailing excess. Love and Rockets is an entirely different entity, completely liberated from Bauhaus. As such they were free to show off their own vibrant colors firmly rooted in underground psychedelia and glitter pop.
The energy in The Fox was palpable. Fans from far and wide buzzed in anticipation to see Love and Rockets on tour for the first time this century, and playing one of their first shows in the last fifteen years (the first being a performance at Cruel World ‘23 the previous night).
One might think that after such a long hiatus, the plan would be to explode out of the blocks with something to get the crowd jumping. Love and Rockets had other thoughts, flipping that notion on its head by hypnotizing all in earshot of Daniel Ash’s sedative voice on the mellow drunk of ‘I Feel Speed.’
The effect was immediate as the crowd was mesmerized in a wash of chorus-drenched guitar and percussive psychedelic grooves floating from Haskins and David J. The way they controlled the mood of the room from the outset with such a beautifully droning psych out jam made it easy to see how much of an influence Love and Rockets are on bands such as Jane’s Addiction, Dandy Warhols, and Brian Jonestown Massacre.
As the last waves of the opener floated in the air, the band began the churning groove of ‘No Big Deal’… ignition accomplished. The GA floor of The Fox was now a living organism swaying and undulating under Ash’s overdriven guitars.
With fans on a high, the trio called “all aboard” with a rollicking version of ‘Kundalini Express.’ The stage swirled in multi-colored spotlights and bubble light sculptures that flanked the players. At this point it was obvious that Love and Rockets could do no wrong, and the crowd was right there with them bellowing with Ash (who was dressed in a red glitter suit and black ruffle shirt ala Prince) “You are disintegrating…into everything around.”
The set started to fly, pushed by ebbs of heavy stripped-down post-punk flourishes and flows of trance-like psychedelia. ‘Judgement Day’ provided dirty subsonic rumbles, and ‘Haunted When The Minutes Drag’ was an anthemic sing along.
But the journey hit the stratosphere as Love and Rockets charged the room with a perfect performance of ‘‘No New Tale to Tell.’ With its driving swagger and no-nonsense narrative that we are all in this together, this song was the ideal mid-set exclamation point. The ending chorus “It’s all the same thing … .No New Tale to Tell!!” grew louder and louder with the crowd supporting David J and Daniel Ash to the coda.
The place exploded, and in the middle of the adulation, they expertly went into cruise control with their most commercially successful song ‘So Alive.’ The crowd was now fully marinating in Love and Rockets goodness, and the good times rolled directly into ‘Deep Deep Down.’
Just when it seemed everyone was on level footing, Love and Rockets pulled a rabbit out of the hat, juxtaposing dark and light with the first ever live performance of the new song ‘My Dark Twin’ (an alternating calm and grinding slice of phased guitars piled on top of the groovy rhythms of David J and Haskins) leading into the smokey and sultry sounds of ‘The Light.’
It was as if time stood still for Love and Rockets. They looked like they hadn’t aged, sounded better than ever, and were absolutely spellbinding as they closed the main set with the rolling train rhythm of ‘Yin and Yang (The Flowerpot Man).’
Fans were delirious, and after a long curtain call, the band ended up coming out for two encores, punctuated by their signature, blistering cover of The Temptations ‘Ball of Confusion,’ and a parting shot of ‘Sweet F.A.’ to send fans home on a drowsy helium balloon high.
If this is an example of where Love and Rockets would pick up and run as a band, we desperately need more. They were energetic and fully immersed in the songs and their performance. There was a hunger to bond with fans that is missing in the current climate of rock. A hunger more indicative of an ascending band, not one that is looking to hang it up after this final tour.
Those who were lucky enough to be at The Fox for this one can count their lucky Love and Rockets stars…this was one for the ages.
Opening the evening was the gender bending Vinsantos. Altogether an odd and obvious choice to greet the crowd, VInsantos brought a piano bar / drag show vibe to the Fox stage.
Embarking on an opening set which included a cover of ‘Love My Way’ by the Psychedelic Furs, VInsantos provided a nice musical backdrop to the anticipation of getting Love and Rockets up onstage.
Of all the songs in the Vinsantos set, the wistful storytelling of ‘After All’ was the best received, eliciting hoots and hollers of approval from the early crowd.