October 16, 2010

God only knows how many live shows that I have had the good fortune to see over the years – several hundred, at least.

From local bands in dingy clubs to major bands at stadium shows and festivals, there are few acts that I could have reasonably hoped to see live that I have not had the opportunity to do so.

And, if asked to choose one that I’d wish to traverse time to experience again, I wouldn’t hesitate in an answer.

Peter Gabriel.

My initial exposure to the one-time Genesis frontman was during my musical formative years when Shock The Monkey became an unexpected pop hit.

As I continued through high school, I came to know songs like Games Without Frontiers, I Go Swimming, and even Walk Through The Fire (a track from the Against All Odds soundtrack) from the rock and alternative stations I listened to.

I purchased Gabriel’s commercial breakthrough So upon release and began delving into his self-titled back catalog even snagging a copy of the soundtrack to Birdy on which the singer reworked some of his previously released tracks.

By the time Passion, Gabriel’s stunningly evocative collection of music from and inspired by the movie The Last Temptation Of Christ arrived in ’89, I was completely on board and awaiting each new release.

Of course, I soon learned that waiting for new music from Peter Gabriel was almost as maddening as waiting for Godot, but arrive the next album did when he released Us in autumn of 1992.

It was on the subsequent tour for Us that a friend from the record store where I was working snagged a handful of tickets on the day of show and six of us made a three-hour road trip.

The band – featuring long-time members like bassist Tony Levin and guitarist David Rhodes as well as newer members like drummer Manu Katché and violinist Shankar – was stellar and Gabriel was riveting.

Of all those shows I’ve seen, over all these years, I have never seen a performer absolutely own an audience as Peter Gabriel that night. There were some visual effects, but they were minimal, unobtrusive, and perfectly complimented the music.

The focal point was the man and the music.

At several points during the show, I vividly recall scanning the sold-out arena and being amazed at how transfixed the entire crowd was, all eyes set on the singer.

Afterwards, my friends and I huddled outside on the concourse, smoking cigarettes and discussing what we had just witnessed. The most effusive praise coming from our receiving clerk, a tall, burly character with long, stringy hair.

The guy was a punk rock fan, had once been a road manager for Scottish punk group The Exploited, and liked relatively little music outside the genre. A good fifteen years older than most of us, he was old enough to claim to have seen Jimi Hendrix in concert.

He declared it to be the best show he’d ever seen.

I couldn’t argue otherwise.

Here are four songs Peter Gabriel performed that night which I recall as being particularly memorable…

Peter Gabriel – Solsbury Hill
from Shaking The Tree: Sixteen Golden Greats

If I ever took on the daunting task of compiling a list of personal favorite songs, I would have to think that the poignant, spiritual, and subtly anthemic Solsbury Hill would be a strong candidate for the top ten.

No matter how many times the song might serve as the musical accompaniment to a trailer for yet another vapid romantic comedy, nothing can diminish the power of the song or wear out its welcome with me.

Peter Gabriel – Family Snapshot
from Peter Gabriel

Gabriel enters the headspace of an assasin drawing on the unsuccessful attempt on George Wallace’s life and the actual murder of John Kennedy for inspiration and imagery. Each and every line resonates, upping the ante and pushing the song to its harrowing climax as the music builds.

And then, Gabriel reverts to the imagined childhood of the protagonist, witnessing the carnage as his family crumbles and offering the heartbreaking plea, “Come back mum and dad, you’re growing apart, you know that I’m growing up sad.”

Peter Gabriel – Secret World
from Secret World Live

Us had a focus on relationships in various states of disrepair none more so than Secret World which closed the album.

Live, Gabriel used the song to close the show. Walking to the front of the stage, he opened a large suitcase and, one by one, each member of the band climbed into the container and dropped out of sight as the song ended.

Gabriel then closed the suitcase and brought a conclusion to the main set.

Peter Gabriel – Here Comes The Flood
from Shaking The Tree: Sixteen Golden Greats

After ending the main set with Secret World, Gabriel and the band returned to the stage – along with with Congolese singer Papa Wemba, who had been the opening act, and his band – for encores of In Your Eyes and Biko.

At that point, the crowd of musicians bade the audience farewell, leaving Gabriel alone again. Bathed in a ghostly light, accompanying himself on keyboards, he delivered one final song – a stunning, haunting version of the sparse Here Come The Flood.

“If You Want A Pizza, Call An Apache”

October 9, 2009

apache-pizza-temple-barI have pondered what that statement means many times since I first visited Dublin and came upon it.

It wasn’t graffiti.

It wasn’t code.

It wasn’t some quant Irish adage.

(at least I don’t think it is)

The phrase “If You Want A Pizza, Call An Apache” was written in red letters across a box at a pizza place near Temple Bar.

Of all the cities which I’ve visited, few had me as smitten as quickly as Dublin. On one visit, the cabbie, an older, well-worn fellow with bushy white hair, explained that he was “going to catch hell” from his wife for skipping mass.

Upon hearing our destination of The Clarence, a hotel partly owned by U2’s Bono and The Edge, he asked “Going to see Uncle Bono, eh?”

“Is he around?”

“Ahhh,” the cabbie sighed, shaking his head and rolling his eyes, “he’s probably trying to make peace in the Middle East or something.”

It’s hard not to fall in love with such down-to-Earth people and the Irish have always struck me as some of the least pretentious folks around.

Another trip to Dublin had been spent celebrating a friend’s birthday – dinner at a small Indian restaurant followed by an evening of drinking a club called Zanzibar.

Returning to my hotel room, I sat dully watching a Bruce Lee movie and craving food. I remembered seeing a pizza place not far from the hotel and set out resolutely.

(it was a similar scenario that led to me to wander about lost at three in the morning in Edinburgh, Scotland once – apparently there is something in my DNA that causes me to trek out for pizza in strange, foreign cities after an evening of drinking)

And that is how I ended up at Apache Pizza. It had to be after midnight, but the tiny place was packed with amped up Irish kids. U2’s The Sweetest Thing was playing on the radio and they were all singing along, loudly.

I snagged a pizza for take-out and there was the phrase – “If You Want A Pizza, Call An Apache” – on the box.

It was inscrutable to me then. It’s inscrutable to me now.

The website for the chain offers no explanation and their slogan now appears to be “Too Many Cowboys, Just One Apache.” I have no idea what that has to do with pizza, although it is a rather concise assessment of the plight of Native Americans in the US.

As for the pizza, I thought it was quite good.

Of course, I’d been drinking, it was late/early, and I was hungry, so, as anyone who has been in a similar situation (in Dublin, Ireland or Dublin, Ohio) can likely commiserate, all but the vilest pizza would have been manna.

I don’t understand exactly how that works any more than I understand why an Apache is the person to call if you want a pizza.

But, as Paloma has a birthday coming soon, I’ve submitted an application to be an Apache Pizza franchisee (I’m fairly certain it’s something she doesn’t have).

In the meantime and as we will soon be seeing U2 on their 360 Tour, here are some lesser-known, personal favorites from the band that I don’t expect us to hear…

U2 – Love Comes Tumbling
from Wide Awake In America

Subtle and hypnotic, Love Comes Tumbling was one of two songs on the Wide Awake In America EP that were outtakes from The Unforgettable Fire. Had that album been released a few years later, after the advent of CDs era and longer running times, it would have made a worthy addition.

U2 – Hallelujah Here She Comes
from Desire single

U2 tried to incorporate American blues, gospel and soul into their sound on several tracks from Rattle And Hum with mixed results. Hallelujah Here She Comes – a b-side from that set’s first single – is far more low-key than most of those attempts on Rattle And Hum, and succeeds in being soulful with considerably less effort .

U2 – Lady With The Spinning Head (extended version)
from Even Better Than The Real Thing single

It was dance music of the late ’80s/early ’90s that was a major influence on Achtung Baby. Lady With The Spinning Head was another strong U2 b-side which fused dance-rock with garage-rock, incorporating grinding guitar and a heavy dose of keyboards.

U2 – Salome
from Even Better Than The Real Thing single

Before Achtung Baby was released in the autumn of 1991, a bootleg of tracks from the recording sessions for that album caused a stir. Entitled The Salome Sessions, the triple CD release is, for fans of the band, a fascinating glimpse into many of the songs that would appear on Achtung Baby in various stages of completion.

Salome, a song that didn’t make it onto Achtung Baby inspired that bootleg’s moniker.