Sunday, April 28, 2013

No. 403 – Red Rain

Performer: Peter Gabriel
Songwriter: Peter Gabriel
Original Release: So
Year: 1986
Definitive Version: Secret World Live, 1994

As I mentioned, when I saw Peter Gabriel in 1993, I was disappointed he played only two songs from So, which at the time was my second-favorite album of all-time (and probably still is at least in the top 5). The two he played were the two obvious ones, the ones he HAD to play: Sledgehammer and In Your Eyes.

You can imagine my further disappointment when he showed up on The Late Show with David Letterman early in 1994 and played this song. Really? You’re playing it in Europe but not here? Yes, and Don’t Give Up, too. That’s the way it goes sometimes. At least they were on the live album he released that year.

So, I didn’t see this song performed live until 18 years later, but I finally saw it. Even though Peter hadn’t done anything new in a decade, Laurie and I went to see his Back to Front tour last year, because he was going to play So in its entirety. It was pure nostalgia; I wasn’t expecting much—particularly after what went down two days earlier at the same location.

Two nights earlier, I indulged Laurie’s nostalgia trip at the United Center. She had wanted to see Prince forever, so I got tickets—$120 for the second level, which was a record ticket price for me, on the first night of a three-night stay. I was OK with that, because … well, Laurie wanted to go. Besides I’ve heard that when Prince is on, it’s the greatest concert you ever saw. Of course, I’ve also heard that if he’s not on, you might leave wondering what all the fuss was about.

Our show was definitely the latter. He started an hour late, turned over most of the vocals after the first third of the concert to his three backup singers or to the crowd, barely played his guitar, played with the house lights up a huge chunk of the time and made us wait 20 minutes before his encore after coming out on stage at one point and saying we weren’t ready yet.

The final indignity was Prince did Little Red Corvette and 1999 in a second encore an HOUR after his encore. Laurie and I were long gone by then, and apparently only about 3,000 people stuck around for the grand finale. At least he bothered to show up: He didn’t play at an after-hours show at House of Blues, like he usually does and for which people paid $60 to hear a DJ spin tunes.

(The next night, apparently to atone for his first night in Chicago after being buried in the press, Prince burned the place down. Like I said, that’s the way it goes with him, but I ain’t paying another $250 total for a chance I might get another not-feeling-it, mail-it-in night. Laurie whole-heartedly agrees.)

So, after that self-indulgent pile of crap, a merely competent show would be more than welcome. It was of course joyful to hear So start to finish—well, rearranged so In Your Eyes was the final song and not the fifth song, as it is on the original album.

But the performance was low energy: It wasn’t nearly as euphoric as when I saw Quadrophenia in 1996 or as solid as when I saw Rush play Moving Pictures in 2010 and 2011. The most lively performance was the best song of the nightThe Tower That Ate People, which perhaps not coincidentally was the most current song that Gabriel played.

I’ve been to nostalgia shows before (see the three above as examples), but this was the first time where I went and felt the performer was too old to pull it off. But there’s a big difference between not pulling it off and not giving a damn. Peter Gabriel gave a damn and delivered a professional performance. That was more than appreciated.

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