What was it, we were thinking of?

“…Oh the wheel it is turning spinning round and round
And the house is crumbling but the stairways stand
With no guilt, and no shame, no sorrow or blame
Whatever it is, we are all the same…” 

This past Thursday, I had a chance to see Peter Gabriel on his Back to Front tour.  Our client had mentioned that Prince had played in Chicago a few nights before and that Peter was playing The United Center on Thursday.

I’m normally not one to jump at going to a concert unless it’s an artist I really like.  In this case, I looked at my coworker and my response was, “Oh really?!”, and she seemed interested too.  So we looked at StubHub.com and bam we found a bunch of great tickets. I gotta say, what a great service.

I digress… Peter Gabriel is not one of those artists I typically list as an artist I really like.  The truth of the matter is, I probably hold him in higher regard than Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Depeche Mode and New Order.

He’s in a class all of his own, in my books.  Take a look at what he’s done with his life and it’s easy to see why that is.  Promoting music from around the world, lifting people up, his philanthropy work – work with Amnesty International, Witness, The Elders…

My earliest introduction to Peter’s music would have been “Games Without Frontiers” from his third album.  I have to admit, as a kid, I didn’t like the sound of the song.  As an adult, I appreciate what the song is about and how it is structured – in fact I had bought family, “Ein deutsches” for Christmas in 1994.  Hearing “Spiel Ohne Grenzen”, the German version of “Games Without Frontiers” was quite neat.

The concept of the Back to Front tour is to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Peter’s album, So, by playing the complete album live from start to finish.  Additionally, proceeds will go towards running WOMAD in 2013 – something I fully support.

So was Peter’s most accessible and best selling album with songs like Sledgehammer, Don’t GIve Up, and Big Time being singles from the album.  This is also the album that brought Peter Gabriel into my life – although I never bought it, and still to this day, I do not have a copy of So.

I didn’t mind Sledgehammer, I loved Big Time – really loved this track, but I found Kate Bush’s voice really annoying on Don’t Give Up.  Don’t hate me, but I find Kate Bush’s voice annoying on any song especially “Running Up That Hill”.  I digress.

As time went on, I heard and appreciated Solsbury Hill, Shake the Monkey, Shaking The Tree, Red Rain and Biko.  You could see that the lyrics, topics and messages are much deeper than your average pop star.  I liked what I heard, meanwhile I still did not pick up any of his albums.

On Jan 22, 1993 at 12:33pm (I have the receipt), I did pick up ‘Us’, his sixth studio album that included singles, Steam, Digging in the Dirt, and Kiss that Frog.  I’m not sure what drew me to the album, other than radio play, but I can say that a significant number of the songs really spoke to me.

Given all the things I had been dealing with

  • I had moved in with my Aunt and Uncle in May 1992, just before graduating from High School, after a tumultuous falling out with my immediate family including my grandmother;
  • I still had a year of high school left (5 OACs)
  • I needed to work hard to make sure I got into the university I wanted to get into, and do my best
  • I was starting to come into my own as a man of 18 and learning to live life on my own;
  • I was finally starting to receive a certain amount of respect that had been missing from my life;
  • I had to re-learn how to give respect

The context for picking up the album was a cold winter day, as we used to have them back then.  Either I had borrowed my Uncle’s Plymouth Sundance, to go to school – or I had been dropped off.  Exams for the day were cancelled, as I think it was exam season, mainly because of a snow day or busses not being able to get to the school on time.  It was Friday – so, a bunch of us friends decided to go into Toronto.

Needless to say, with all of the things I had going on, this album hit home for me with my own interpretations:

  • Digging in the Dirt representing a lot of my feelings around my immediate family situation, especially anger inside;
  • Come Talk To Me about wanting sanity to establish itself within that family situation, and just needing someone to be a guide and mentor; and being afraid;
  • Acknowledging that I actually Love to be Loved – which is pretty big for a teenager;
  • Secret World about hiding and withholding love, and very much about my need to move out of my Grandmother’s house and in with my Aunt and Uncle.

It’s not surprising that I was going through relationship issues at that time and this whole album is about relationships.

So that pretty much solidified Peter Gabriel as an artist I really enjoyed.

It’s been years since I listed to Us and with going to the concert on Thursday, I started hoping that Peter might play tracks from Us in addition to playing So from start to finish.

Come Talk to Me was the second song of the night, Digging in the Dirt started the second part of the concert, and Secret World was the second song of the second part of the evening.  The third part of the evening was playing So live from start to finish.

By the end of the second part of the evening, my Peter Gabriel concert experience was more than I could have asked for with three key songs from my life having been played live.  I could not have asked for more.

Okay, I will say that there were some other very cool moments, especially with “Father, Son” and “The Tower That Ate Men” from Ovo (The Millennium Show) – the latter being played as an encore which were also significant.

One other thing I appreciated about this concert was the volume was at an appropriate level for listening without ear plugs.

I feel very fortunate to have experienced this concert at this time and very much appreciate the experience.

I’ve been listening to Us all day, and it still stands the test of time.  I look forward to a remastered version in the future.

It’s nice re-listening to pivotal albums from times in our life, and realizing how much we have grown, moved on, and have been honourable to those challenging experiences.

Since that time in 1993, I picked up “Shaking the Tree”- Greatest Hit collection; and “Ovo – The Millennium Show” album from the Millennium Dome itself in 2001, before it became the O2 Arena.

As for So, I plan on buying a copy as soon as I can.  Today, I purchased “Secret World Live” on DVD so that Scott can somewhat experience a PG show as he wasn’t in Chicago with me.

“Seeing things that were not there
On a wing on a prayer
In this state of disrepair

Down by the railway siding
In our secret world, we were colliding
In all the places we were hiding love
What was it we were thinking of?”

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