Midge Ure at World Cafe Live in Philly, 1-10-2013

Midge Ure  – “Vienna” (World Cafe Live, Philly – 1/10/2013

Thanks to my wife for allowing me to get a night to myself, I was able to go down to Philly to see the legendary Midge Ure, backed by Los Angeles-based band Right the Stars (who also served as opening act), perform at World Cafe Live last night.

What an amazing show and it was really special seeing an artist with such a lengthy pop/rock music pedigree performing in such an intimate venue. For those who don’t know, Midge Ure is best known as the lead singer and driving force behind the best-known iteration of 80s synth-pop heroes Ultravox and as the man who was essentially ordered by Bob Geldof to write what became “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”—the charity track recorded by Band Aid and produced by Ure in 1984.

However, Ure also spent time in groups like Visage, The Rich Kids, Thin Lizzy and Slik. He even reportedly turned down an invitation to become lead singer of the Sex Pistols in 1975. In short, the guy has been around for a long time and has done an awful lot with his immense talent.

This was only my second time seeing Ure in concert. The other time was when he opened for Howard Jones at what was then called the Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., on June 16, 1989. But, damn…Midge still brings it.

The video above is Midge Ure—with Right the Stars—performing Ultravox’s classic 80s hit, “Vienna,” at World Cafe Live last night. The clip comes from YouTube user vwall10411, who I’ve turned to a lot for videos from Philly-area concerts, and there are a few more videos after the jump.

From Setlist.fm, here is the set list from last night’s show…

I See Hope in the Morning Light (missing on Setlist.fm)
Love’s Great Adventure (Ultravox)
Call of the Wild
Breathe
Fade To Grey (Visage)
Cold Cold Heart
Answers To Nothing
Just For You
No Regrets (Tom Rush cover that was a No. 9 UK hit for Midge Ure in 1982)
Vienna (Ultravox)
Dear God
One Small Day (Ultravox)
Hymn (Ultravox)
Dancing With Tears In My Eyes (Ultravox)
If I Was

Encore:
Do They Know It’s Christmas?* (Band Aid, written by Midge Ure & Bob Geldof; produced by Midge Ure)

* – solo acoustic performance

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My first Peter Gabriel concert…25 years ago today

Although I first saw Peter Gabriel live at the Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope show at Giants Stadium in June 1986, it wasn’t until July 21, 1987, at the old Spectrum in Philadelphia that I got to enjoy the full PG concert experience.

And it was amazing. And in the 25 years since that show, I have seen Peter Gabriel in concert seven times* and each show blows me away.

* One of the seven shows was Peter Gabriel backed by his New Blood Orchestra in June 2011.

Peter Gabriel will be returning to the United States later this year for a tour celebrating the 25th anniversary of the tour supporting his classic 1986 album, So. And it was 25 years ago today, that my sister and I sat in row 16 on the floor in the Spectrum and took in the spectacle that is Peter Gabriel—backed by Tony Levin on bass, David Rhodes on guitars, founding E Street band member David Sancious on keyboards and Manu Katché on drums/percussion—in concert.

At this point, I need to correct something I have misstated over the years on my various blogs. There is a lot of video on YouTube of a Peter Gabriel show at the Spectrum in July 1987 that I always thought was from the concert I was at. Well, I messed that up. The YouTube video is from the July 20, 1987, show in Philly…my sister and I went to the show the following night, July 21.

However, I recently discovered that a bootleg of the July 21, 1987, show I was at has been floating around for years, and I just happened to come into possession of it within the past few weeks. This means I can relive the experience of that show whenever I want to, which is kind of cool.

In any case, I will get to relive the experience when I see Peter Gabriel—with the same backing band—perform So in its entirety along with other PG classics at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly on September 21. With family commitments ever increasing, it will likely be my last opportunity to see Peter Gabriel in concert so I splurged for fourth-row tickets…can’t wait.

So…here are some videos from PG’s July 20, 1987, show at the Spectrum in Philly—the night before I attended my first Peter Gabriel concert.

Peter Gabriel – This Is The Picture (Spectrum – July 20, 1987)
Trivia: Manu Katché is using a guitar-shaped MIDI controller then called the Dynacord Rhythm Stick to trigger sounds from a drum machine…it was later renamed The JAMMA.

Peter Gabriel – Red Rain (Spectrum – July 20, 1987)

Peter Gabriel – Games Without Frontiers (Spectrum – July 20, 1987)
Always loved this arrangement.

Peter Gabriel – No Self Control (Spectrum – July 20, 1987)
This basically kicks ass.

Peter Gabriel – Solsbury Hill (Spectrum – July 20, 1987)
A highlight of any Peter Gabriel show…such a great song.

Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer (Spectrum – July 20, 1987)
Even though this isn’t among my top 10 favorite Peter Gabriel songs…it always kicks ass live.

Peter Gabriel – Lay Your Hands on Me
This isn’t from the 7/20/87 show at the Spectrum. It is from the POV concert video, but back in his younger days, PG would do some crowdsurfing whenever he performed this song…the laying on of hands at the 5:44 mark of the clip. He did this at our show and it was awesome, so I had to include it here.

Putting a dream into action

Howard Jones
Howard Jones

This post started out as a recap of the notable moments from Thursday night’s Howard Jones show at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pa…but evolved into something completely different.

So, yeah…I went to see Howard Jones perform this past Thursday night, marking the fourth time I’ve seen him live. The first time was a solo performance of “No One is to Blame” on a digital piano during the June 1986 Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope Tour finale at Giants Stadium (where he was introduced on stage by Michael J. Fox). I saw HoJo again in June 1989, this time in full electronic mode in Holmdel, N.J. (with the incredible Midge Ure from Ultravox and Visage as the opening act). Then, I had the chance to briefly meet and talk to HoJo after seeing him perform in an “acoustic duo” format (even though he was playing a digital piano) in Blackwood, N.J., in January 2008 (I would have had a picture, too, if my camera batteries hadn’t died).

Last night, HoJo was in full electronic mode and, for this tour, is playing all the songs from his first two albums, both of which I probably listened to thousands of times as a teenager.  The first half of the set included all the songs — although not in track-list order — from HoJo’s 1983 debut, Human’s Lib; the other portion of the show featured all the tracks (again, not in album sequence) from his 1985 follow-up album, Dream Into Action.

Personally, what was great about this show was that Howard Jones was the artist who really inspired my teenage love of electronic music and served as the catalyst for my purchasing two pro-grade synthesizers, a sampler, a sequencer and a drum machine by the time I was 17. I felt I had the skills to create songs even though my technical musical ability was — and is — extremely limited. This prevented me from really working with musicians in a traditional band setup so I felt this equipment gave me the means to do everything myself, as well as correct all the flubs due to my craptacular playing ability.

Eventually, I found a like-minded spirit (at that time) in the form of my friend Christian Beach, who was my bandmate from around 1988 until late summer 1990. He lived just across town from me and also owned an array of synths, samplers and drum machines. There were two other advantages working with Christian – 1) his gear was better, and 2) he is much more talented and gifted than I could ever hope to be.

While many people in the mainstream have this idea that electronic music is easy to execute, the reality is this is not the case. You still have to write the music and lyrics, and play all the backing parts into the sequencer…and this took forever back in the 1980s and early 90s. To prepare for playing live, you needed to do a lot of programming of your instruments and saving those settings into a MIDI file stored on a floppy disk in the sequencer. The song sequences (which include the drum and bass tracks, and any other parts not being played live) were also saved on floppy disks. Since the instrument and song data took up a lot of room on those old floppy disks, we needed several disks…that needed to be loaded (quite slowly, mind you)…in specific order during our shows.

As you might expect, this led to some embarrassing moments like having a saxophone coming in as a hi-hat part, or the wrong song sequence popping up, or a footswitch not set up to start a song when it was supposed to be…stuff like that.

And Thursday night’s HoJo show reminded me of all the joy and pain electronic music has brought to me over the years. As exciting it is to create all the parts of a song on your own, I remember all too well the difficulties of making the so-called “easy-to-use” technology work for you when you need it to.

Two such instances cropped up Thursday night for HoJo. During the Human’s Lib portion of the set, it seemed like the sound assignments for his keyboards on “Don’t Always Look at the Rain” weren’t set up right. That threw the whole song off after a few measures, resulting in a total restart of the song.

But that was a minor hiccup compared to what happened during the Dream Into Action half of the show, when “Assault and Battery” — a song I was really looking forward to hearing played live — had to be restarted…TWICE! On the first attempt to play the song, HoJo got through the piano intro only to have the sequence from the previous song kick in (been there, done that…a few times). On attempt No. 2, HoJo completed the piano intro and the right sequence started…and then stopped inexplicably about four measures in. The third time proved to be a charm, however, and the audience was treated to “Assault and Battery” in all its glory.

Anyway, I was just happy to see one of my earliest musical influences. Granted, aside from the more recent organ/accordion work I’ve contributed to some of Christian Beach’s live shows and recordings, I haven’t done anything musically significant in my life (although Christian did use lyrics I wrote for a chorus in the song “What Does It Mean to You?” by one of his old bands, Slave of Id, that received some airplay on long-departed 106.3 WHTG-FM around 1993…that was kind of cool). But I still write songs when I can and still do all the parts myself, thanks to Apple’s GarageBand application…and Howard Jones’ influence.

Here’s Howard Jones performing “Look Mama” from his Dream Into Action album at the Keswick Theatre on Oct. 20, 2011 (courtesy of YouTube user Nostalgicflashback)…

Ben Folds at the Tower, 11-13-2010

Ben Folds at the Tower Theater, 11-13-2010
Ben Folds at the Tower Theater, 11-13-2010 (taken with my BlackBerry)

Alison and I went to see Ben Folds last night at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pa. And, as usual, Ben was awesome and played for a little more than two hours.

Ben usually has really great opening acts. I saw Tegan and Sara open for him a few years ago at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J., just weeks before their song “Walking with a Ghost” (later covered by The White Stripes) from their 2004 CD “So Jealous” became a hit on adult album alternative (AAA) and college radio stations. When we saw Ben earlier this year in Montclair, N.J., the fantastic Australian singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke — who went on to contribute backing vocals on Ben’s new collaboration with author-lyricist Nick Hornby, “Lonely Avenue” — was the opening act.

For this tour, Ben has enlisted the three-piece Lady Danville as the warm-up act and they were quite entertaining. And bonus points go to percussionist/vocalist Matthew Frankel for his use of a cajón (see video of Lady Danville in action at the bottom of this post).

Regarding Ben’s set, it’s amazing how deep his catalog is at this point of his career. He didn’t even touch a Ben Folds Five track until he played “Mess” as his 18th song of the night.

Here is Ben Folds’ set list from last night:

Working Day
Doc Pomus
Belinda
Sleazy (Ke$ha cover)
Gone
Cologne
Saskia Hamilton
Bastard
Still Fighting It
From Above
Rock This Bitch (Tower Theater)
Effington
Landed
Claire’s Ninth
Annie Waits
Levi Johnston’s Blues
The Luckiest
Mess
The Last Polka
Practical Amanda
Zak and Sara
You Don’t Know Me
Kate
Rockin’ the Suburbs
Not the Same

Encore:
Philosophy
Chopsticks (Liz Phair cover)
Army

Related Video

Ben Folds – Philosophy (incl. Mirsilou) + Chopsticks (Liz Phair cover)

Ben Folds – Saskia Hamilton (Tower Theater, Upper Darby, Pa., 11-13-2010)


Note: Apparently, shot vertically…most likely with an iPhone.

Lady Danville – “Frames & Molding” (Live at Largo in Los Angeles 06-28-10)

24 years of Peter Gabriel fandom: “Secret World” (1994)

So here we are…the fifth and final installment of my Peter Gabriel video series this week, marking my 24th anniversary as a fan of PG. This is sort of a wild card for me as I didn’t get to see PG on his recent “New Blood” tour in support of his orchestral covers CD, “Scratch My Back,” and that would have been the next progression in the sequence of live videos. However, I wanted this week to kind of recapture the joy I have experienced during PG’s live shows over the years. Since I didn’t see the “New Blood” tour, I’m basically picking today’s video out of a hat.

Well, that’s not entirely true because I knew right from the start what the last video would be…my favorite Peter Gabriel song of all time, from my favorite PG tour…”Secret World” from its namesake tour!

Strangely, because it’s the last track on Peter Gabriel’s “Us” album and because I had originally purchased that album in cassette format, I never even listened to it until weeks after I bought the tape. And when I did finally listen, I never stopped. It’s an amazing song that is even more spectacular when seen performed live.

I love how the live version of this song builds up to the dramatic, high-energy bridge…only to come back down and build right up again before the very end of the song. As you can probably tell from the ending, this was the number that closed the regular part of the set back on the “Secret World Live” tour. PG and band would re-emerge from the dome a few minutes later for the encore, which usually included “In Your Eyes.”

You may be able to hear how “Secret World” influenced a song I originally wrote and recorded on my old, analog 4-track in 1995 called “The Greatest Love,” which I recorded in digital format on my Mac back in 2004. For comparison, you can listen to the 2004 version of “The Greatest Love” in the audio player below the video.

Peter Gabriel – “Secret World” (Secret World Live, 1994)

Brian Kelley – “The Greatest Love” (1995/2004)

24 years of Peter Gabriel fandom: “Solsbury Hill” (2003)

Well, so far on this journey through my 24 years of Peter Gabriel fandom, I haven’t posted anything really all that mainstream…no “Shock the Monkey”, “Sledgehammer”, “Steam” or “In Your Eyes”.  It’s not that I’m not a fan of those songs…in fact, the live version of “Sledgehammer” is always awesome. But I have wanted to explore some of the deeper tracks from the PG catalog this week. However, after much internal debate about what video from 2003’s “Growing Up Live” tour (during which I saw PG three times…one night at the Meadowlands, the next night in Philly and then the following year at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ), I decided to go with something a little more well known…”Solsbury Hill.”

Thanks to its use in films like “Vanilla Sky” and others, “Solsbury Hill” — a track from Peter Gabriel’s first self-titled solo album in 1977 — has eventually become somewhat popular. What many people may not realize is that the song is about Gabriel’s departure as lead singer of Genesis in 1975.

And really…how could I not include a PG performance that has him riding a bike on stage…

Peter Gabriel – “Solsbury Hill” (Growing Up Live, 2003)

24 years of Peter Gabriel fandom: “Come Talk to Me” (1994)

Here is part 3 of this week’s 5-part series of Peter Gabriel videos marking my 24th year as a PG fan. One of the great concert events of the 1990s was Peter Gabriel’s “Secret World Live” tour (1993-94) in support of his CD, “Us.” Today’s video is the set-opening “Come Talk to Me” from that tour, featuring a then-unknown Paula Cole, who was still about two years away from success with her album “This Fire” (with “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone” and “I Don’t Want to Wait”). PG gave Cole her big break when he hired her to fill the female vocalist spot for this tour.

Peter Gabriel – “Come Talk to Me” (Secret World Live, 1994)