Trolling the Underground

For the newbies: Trolling the underground is a formerly regular feature that has been sidelined since my home computer died. I still don’t have a new one, but I have cobbled this entry together over a few weeks and with the help of my friends. It will be regular again, but not until I get a new home rig.

Anyway, the idea behind this feature is to highlight my favorite hobby, the collecting of underground recordings that are not available through any official channels. Unlike “bootlegging”, the free trading of unofficial recordings is entirely legal. In the feature, I discuss the hobby, the music, my memories of live performances, and the artists themselves. Every TtU post features a song from one of the shows in my collection. At the end of each post, I give a clue as to what artist(s) will be featured next time. The first person to guess the correct name in my comments wins a copy of the entire show to be featured!  

 gabriel1.jpg “Shaking the Tree”

As you’ve probably gathered from reading these posts, I’ve seen a few concerts. In fact, if I’d put all the money I’ve spent on concert tickets into an IRA, I’d probably be sitting pretty by now. I don’t know exactly how many shows I’ve seen, but it numbers easily in the hundreds, with the number of artists well over a hundred by itself. Guessing conservatively, natch.

Given that, one would expect that I’d have a difficult time picking the best show I’ve seen. You’d probably expect me to make a “Top 10” list or somesuch. But while I’d have to do that if someone asked who my favorite musician is, picking my favorite live performer is actually pretty easy.

Peter Gabriel wins, hands down. Not one single doubt in my mind.

While there are many musicians who impress me enough to see more than once (I’ve seen the Grateful Dead, CSN, Neil Young, Jeff Beck, Bob Dylan, Adrian Belew, Yes, Pink Floyd, Little Feat, and Ratdog multiple times, among many others), no one can draw me into what is happening onstage quite like Peter Gabriel. I’m hard pressed to think of anyone else I would drive from Albuquerque to Phoenix with a flu to see.

A Gabriel show isn’t just a concert – I see it as a multi-media event. It’s not just lights and gimmicks, either, but in the way each song is presented. It’s a mixture of music, dancing, mime, lights, films, and interaction with the audience that is truly difficult to describe. Gabriel doesn’t just sing his songs, he performs them. I know that that is a weakass descripton, but bear with me.

When I saw him on the tour I’m highlighting with this post – 1994s “Secret World” tour, we came in to see not one stage, but two stages connected by a runway. There was the traditional square stage in front of the audience, with the runway projecting into the audience and connecting to a round stage in the center of the main floor. Everything was empty. I remember us saying that it was getting close to showtime, and they’d better start setting up the instruments, but no stage hands ever appeared. Then the lights went out.

We then heard music begin to play. As the lights came back up, we could see that several large holes had appeared in the stage. The musicians, already playing, were rising up through the holes on hydraulic platforms that filled the holes exactly. Gabriel himself was in an old-fashioned bright red british phone booth, singing into a headset mike but holding the phone as if he were speaking into it. The song, if you haven’t guessed, was Come Talk to Me.

gabriel.jpg  “Steam”

As the song progressed, he left the phone booth still holding the phone. The cord stretched as he pulled it (against, it seemed, great resistance) across the stage and down the runway to the other stage, where his background singer (the beautiful and talented Paula Cole) was standing. After they sang for a while face to face, the cord pulled him, seemingly against his great resistance, back to the phone booth where the song ended. And this incredible bit of theatrics was the opening number. The show progessed and intensified from there. (If you would like to SEE this, rent his Secret World Live DVD.)

Gabriel’s style was always theatrical. During his tenure as frontman for Genesis, he wore makeup, masks, and costumes, often changing guises more than once during a song (by taking advantage of long instrumental passages). That particular style was sidelined when he went solo. His performances were simplified, but always theatrical, and grew into what I just described, and I only described the tip of the iceberg. If you rent the dvd mentioned above and like it, you will also like the dvd of his more recent tour called Growing Up Live.

pg07.jpg “Growing Up”

When I found this bootleg, I was on cloud nine. A soundboard of the best show I ever saw!!!!! When listening to it, however, I realised that this was the next night’s show. The difference is the replacement of ONE song (The first night he played Kiss That Frog, the second night he replaced it with Shock the Monkey). Ah well, it still reminds me of that show. I’d sure like to find a soundboard of the one I saw, though.

It was difficult to choose a song from this show, as I like all of them and his band is fantastic. I’ve chosen a song called Shaking the Tree, about womankind’s emancipation (at least in the west) for three reasons. First, it might be less known to my reading audience. Secondly, Gabriel introduces the band during the song (so I don’t have to). Third, it was an aural and visual highlight of the show, and the first song of the show performed on the round stage. The square stage was for the harder, more masculine songs (such as Steam or Games Without Frontiers), and the round stage was for the softer, more feminine tunes. Visually, this song was a treat (as you’ll see if you rent the DVD), with the singers dancing in a circle around the band and a big tree popping up from under the stage in the middle of it all (and providing a great segue to a song called Blood of Eden).

No matter what, when Gabriel is on tour, I will do what I can to see a show. It’s worth the extra effort.

This is from The Rosemont Horizon in Rosemont, Il. on July 10, 1993.

Hear it here. Enjoy

genesis_petergabriel_live.jpg With Genesis.

Next time: Coming from Louisiana, this artist moved away to explore the wild world,  got as far as Austin and has lived there since.



  1. I went to the Auckland leg of that Secret World tour that you mention. You’re so right, he’s a fantastic performer. A moment that sticks in my mind was when he got the crowd to sing 3 notes for him, which he promptly recorded and ran through a sequencer or something, making a rhythmic loop which served as choral-type introduction to the next song. Nice!

    My fave PG songs are probably Come Talk to Me, Shock the Monkey, Here Comes the Flood and Family Snapshot.

  2. Those CDs you sent me totally ROCK!! Hooray for Wikipenis. 🙂


  4. Solsbury Hill The Intruder … Yee Haw!!

  5. YEAH, the return of Trolling the Underground!

    What a great, if often-overlooked, songwriter and performer. I have never had the pleasure of seeing a live PG performance, so I missed out. Thanks for sharing one of my favorite PG songs, too. AWESOMENESS.

  6. Cheezy- My favorite part was at the end when he packed the entire band into a suitcase and walked off with it.

    Paula – Glad you enjoy them! You should rent the DVD and see what’s going on during all that rockin’.

    Tim – Hey, good to see you around. PG is one of the few people who can write lyrics that don’t annoy me.

    HT- I still remember the WTF? look you had on youir face when I played “The Intruder” for you the first time back in high school…. 🙂

    Nat- See him next time around! You won’t be sorry.

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