Saturday, July 18, 2015

Live Music from Peter Gabriel and Porcupine Tree

Hidden silences,
But now the coast is So clear.
Don't know how to stop.

I have loved Peter Gabriel's music for a long, long time - all the way back to his days with Genesis. His first four solo albums are part of my collection and his fourth, Security, nearly got worn out by all the play I gave it in college. (For the younger readers, you could actually dull the sound of a vinyl LP by excessive playing. Ask your grandparents for details.) His 1986 live album, Plays Live, is one of my favorite live performances by any artist. And I think I've seen him perform live two or three times and those performances were wonderful combinations of musical artistry and what I'd call minimal stage theatrics.

Then - for reasons that are likely benign - I just stopped buying his albums - and missed So's debut in 1986. The silver lining is that now I had a good reason to buy So (Special Edition) with its additional two CDs worth of live material. And not to take anything away from the studio version of So, but the 2 live CDs are worth the price of admission by themselves.

It sounds cliche, but I must really prefer his live performances. (The old TV network Ovation used to run one of his live concerts and it was great too.)

So (Special Edition) consists of 3 CDs. The first is a re-issue of 1986's So feature including the five singles you've all heard: Sledgehammer, Don't Give Up, In Your Eyes, Big Time, and Red Rain.

The two live CDs are an outstanding performance of material from So and other albums: This is the Picture, San Jacinto, Shock the Monkey, Family Snapshot, Intruder, Games Without Frontiers, No Self Control, Mercy Street, The Family and the Fishing Net, Don't Give Up, Solsbury Hill, Lay Your Hands on Me, Sledgehammer, Here Comes the Flood, In Your Eyes, and Biko.

Family Snapshot, Intruder, and No Self Control are especially formidable live performances, riding on the strength of his band which includes Tony Levin on bass and David Rhoad on guitar. (I don't have the liner notes handy to identify the keyboardist and drummer.) Give a listen (and appreciate a little bit of late 1980s fashion):

The porcupine's quills
are now a blossoming tree,
my hearing transformed.

On the other hand, Porcupine Tree has always been somewhat of an enigma to me. Despite being a huge fan of Steven Wilson's solo work, I could never get over a mental hurdle with the band's studio work. I never felt any resonance with their music, anything that would pull me back in.

That is until I heard their live performance of Octane Twisted. What an excellent show. Since I'm not too familiar with the band's discography it appears that the first CD is a complete live performance of album and the second CD completes the live show with material from other albums.

I don't know what it is about this recording, but the sound is more spacious and, to my ear, gives each performer room to breath and to be heard. There's great interplay between all the band members. Even Wilson, who has a larger than life stage presence when solo, is just another (integral) band member which works to the performance's benefit.

Here's an example of what you can expect:

You can find both performers on the web:

"I don't know much about music but I sure like the sound it makes."

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

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