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
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)
One Small Day (Ultravox)
Dancing With Tears In My Eyes (Ultravox)
If I Was
Do They Know It’s Christmas?* (Band Aid, written by Midge Ure & Bob Geldof; produced by Midge Ure)
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 – 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.
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.
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:
Sleazy (Ke$ha cover)
Still Fighting It
Rock This Bitch (Tower Theater)
Levi Johnston’s Blues
The Last Polka
Zak and Sara
You Don’t Know Me
Rockin’ the Suburbs
Not the Same
Chopsticks (Liz Phair cover)
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.
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…
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.
Well, today officially marks my 24th anniversary as a Peter Gabriel fan and I have decided that my PG video posts this week shall be a chronological journey of my fandom. Yesterday’s video was of PG’s performance of “Biko” the first time I ever saw him live, at the Amnesty International concert at Giants Stadium on June 15, 1986. Today’s video is from the first actual Peter Gabriel concert I ever attended — July 20, 1987, at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. The video quality isn’t all that great, but the mere fact that this footage exists — and on YouTube (thanks to YouTube user Magog64) — is amazing. Here is one of my all-time favorite PG songs, “No Self Control”…and if you ever have time to kill, you should check out all the videos from this show…just incredible stuff.
This past Monday night, my wife and I went to the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pa., for Conan O’Brien’s “Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television” tour. I love Conan O’Brien and never got the chance to see a taping of his show when he was based in New York and figured if there was any bright side to the whole “Tonight Show” debacle of 2010, it was that this tour would give me the chance to see him live.
But I didn’t really know what to expect. YouTube videos and stories about the tour seemed promising, but I still wasn’t sure how Conan would be outside the context of a television show format. I just knew I wanted to support him during this time of transition.
At the start of the show, Conan told the audience that it was the first time people ever paid to watch him perform (while referencing the fact that people have paid him to go away) and he had set a goal of making the prices we paid for tickets “sort of worth it.” Well, after the show was over, I determined that I may have underpaid for my tickets. Conan and Company were absolutely freakin’ amazing…and it was the best live entertainment event I have ever attended…by far!
Here are just a few notes from the evening:
I always knew his band was awesome…but they could pretty much blow any band out of the water.
Conan came out wearing a Flyers jersey and soon did a quick impersonation that seemed to be of a certain, unfunny, backstabbing late-night talk show host. But apparently we were mistaken, as Conan explained: “Now, that is not who you think it is…that’s actually my impression of the rapper Ludacris…I hope you all have my back on that one in court.”
Andy Richter did a live commercial for a 5-pound Tony Luke’s cheese steak that ended with: “And don’t forget, we also sell 2- and 3-pound cheese steaks…for pussies!”
TRIUMPH! It was via video, but the Insult Comic Dog did a bit that included the classic “insert audio of city name, famous restaurant/landmark here” joke, which was hysterical. For instance, “I know everything about the state of [PENNSYLVANIA]…the state animal is [ALLEN IVERSON].”
TINA FEY! I kept telling Alison that I thought she would show up since the show was in her hometown, and I was so happy to be right. As soon as he brought out what is now called the Chuck Norris Rural Policeman Handle for legal reasons (on “Late Night,” Conan used to pull this lever and a random clip from the old TV series “Walker, Texas Ranger” would play…with hysterical results) — and said they would need some help, I knew he was going to bring out Tina. And then when he said “the funniest woman on the planet,” Alison and I just looked at each other and started going nuts.
OK, and for the finale…during Conan’s final song of the encore, we see him go out into the crowd and I thought to myself, “Damn! I wish I had splurged for orchestra seats” since we were in the first row of the lower balcony. About 20 seconds later, CONAN O’BRIEN WAS STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO US! He ran up to the freakin’ balcony, high-fiving people…I just missed being able to pat him on the back (I came up about 5 inches short). The seats across the aisle from us were empty and there was short wall in front of the first row so he climbed up and stood on top of that, prompting cheers from the crowd. I was too stunned to get my phone’s camera going in time so I lost my chance at an awesome picture.
It was just an amazing night of comedy and music…and Conan proved once again that he has more talent in his floppy red hair than in all of that hack who is still doing Bill Clinton jokes at 11:35. In fact, I will say that Conan O’Brien may be the best entertainer of his generation.
Anyway, here are some videos that members of Monday night’s audience have uploaded to YouTube (and, yes, there is some adult language in these clips)…enjoy:
Wow! It’s been a long time between posts here on the ol’ blog, but I’m taking the time to put a quick one up here to talk about yet another personal Ben Folds live show experience for me.
This time, Alison and I went to see Ben Folds perform solo — just “Ben Folds and a Piano” (as the tour is known) — at the Wellmont Theatre in Montclair, NJ. As I found out during this show, Ben Folds apparently lived in Upper Montclair for a brief period several years ago, so there was some reminiscing on Ben’s part and then a weird moment when somebody from our row — we were three rows from the stage — started having a conversation with Ben about somebody he knew from his short time living in the area.
It was my first time at the Wellmont and I must say it’s a nice venue…and the sound was great from the third row. We bought ourselves a couple of drinks in the lobby and I was concerned we’d have to down them before heading to our seats, but the orchestra seating area actually has at least a couple of bars toward the back and the seats are all individual chairs on a hard floor so I guess they’re not concerned with spillage like more traditional theater venues.
Anyway, onto the show itself…the opener was a fantastic Australian singer-songwriter named Kate Miller-Heidke, who performed with her musical partner/husband Keir Nuttall on acoustic guitar. KMH, as I’ll call her, showed off her amazing voice in her first number, “Our Song,” a beautiful track from her 2008 CD Curiouser (iTunes link). But she followed that up with very intelligent, witty and profanity-laced pop songs that were catchy, funny and amazing. The best moment was when KMH moved over to piano and performed her “Are You F*cking Kidding Me?” — which really should have the parenthetical subtitle (“The Facebook Song”). It is a cleverly written track describing her reaction to receiving a Facebook friend request from an ex. Fortunately, for those of us in the U.S., the American release of Curiouser includes a live version of the song as a bonus track. If you like beautifully sung, intelligent, mature pop music that ranges from heart-wrenching (“The Last Day on Earth”) to hysterical (“God’s Gift to Women”), then definitely check out KMH.
As for Ben Folds…well, he was brilliant as usual. Unfortunately, I spent most of the first song getting up and down to make room for people moving in and out of our row because some freakin’ kids sitting in the row behind us — without tickets for those seats — thought they could just direct people who had those tickets to sit in the row in front of them — our row — without there being any consequences. Of course, when people showed up to sit in those seats as Ben started playing, all hell broke loose in our row. At one point, I just yelled out “This is ridiculous.” One couple responded that it wasn’t their fault because the kids were in their seats in the row behind us. I replied loudly, “Don’t worry. I know (and turning to the row behind us)…it’s all their fault because they don’t know how to read a freakin’ ticket!” At that point, the kids took their sense of entitlement and finally went to their proper seats and order was restored.
From that point on, though, the show was great…Ben talked about seeing a video by Insane Clown Posse that was going to stick with him forever. He then tried to play his song, “Sentimental Guy,” but kept cracking up at the thought of the Insane Clown Posse video and couldn’t even get through the first verse of the song. After three or four attempts, he just moved on to another song (near the end of the show, Ben finally got around to getting through “Sentimental Guy”).
Unfortunately, Ben didn’t play “Zak and Sara,” which is a personal favorite (I also found this odd because one of the t-shirts being sold at the merch table featured an illustration inspired by “Zak and Sara”). However, he did play old favorites like “Kate”, “Emaline” (after someone yelled it out from the audience), “Narcolepsy”, “One Angry Dwarf” and the always-amazing “Philosophy”…so that made up for it.
Oh, actually, there was one more encounter with the “Entitlement Kids”…right after the show ended and people started heading to the exits, a couple of the kids who were sitting in the wrong seats came back to reunite with their friends who did have tickets for seats in the row behind us. One girl decided to walk on the seats and spill some of her drink on me as she went by. I was all set to lecture the kids, but was led out of the theater by Alison to avoid any conflict.
But it was a great night of music overall. Ben was his typical outstanding self and KMH was a fantastic musical discovery.