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My Favorite Songs of 2016 December 29, 2016

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Well, 2016 sucked…there’s no way to sugarcoat it. I mean, even this list of my favorite songs of 2016 kicks off with two icons – David Bowie and Leonard Cohen – we lost this past year. But both gave us such wonderful musical parting gifts in Blackstar and You Want It Darker, respectively. And there was PLENTY of great music in 2016 – one of the bright spots of such an awful, awful year.

You’ll see/hear a lot of Field Music, Young Gun Silver Fox, Margo Price, Kishi Bashi and Sing Street – a band that only exists in the grossly under-watched 2016 film of the same name (it’s on Netflix…watch it!). This is because Field Music’s Commontime, Young Gun Silver Fox’s West End Coast, Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter (in my opinion, one of the most egregious Grammy nomination snubs), Kishi Bashi’s Sonderlust and the Sing Street soundtrack were among the albums I kept going back to in 2016. Many of the other songs here were staples of my favorite radio station, Philadelphia’s WXPN, over the course of the year and stuck with me. And this playlist is by no means complete…it just represents the songs I listened to a lot, whether that was stuff I own or heard played on WXPN.

The playlist above (see track list below) is presented in no particular order…I just hope it takes you on a journey as you experience the music I was listening to in 2016.

  1. “Lazarus” – David Bowie (6:23)
  2. “You Want It Darker” – Leonard Cohen (4:47)
  3. “Hands of Time” – Margo Price (6:10)
  4. “Disappointed” – Field Music (3:06)
  5. “m’lover” – Kishi Bashi (3:50)
  6. “You Can Feel It” – Young Gun Silver Fox (3:16)
  7. “Up” – Sing Street (2:44) – from the motion picture “Sing Street”
  8. “1979 (Smashing Pumpkins cover)” – Darlingside (4:06)
  9. “Call Off Your Dogs” – Lake Street Dive (3:30)
  10. “White Flag” – Joseph (3:20)
  11. “No Matter Where We Go” – Whitney (2:42)
  12. “Emilia” – Young Gun Silver Fox (4:07)
  13. “Nothing More to Say” – The Frightnrs (4:13)
  14. “Love & Hate” – Michael Kiwanuka (8:01)
  15. “Let Me Be Me” – Night-Funk (4:34)
  16. “Drive It Like You Stole It” – Sing Street (4:00) – from the motion picture “Sing Street”
  17. “Say Yeah” – Kishi Bashi (4:41)
  18. “Better” – Young Gun Silver Fox (4:03)
  19. “It’s a Good Thing” – Field Music (4:27)
  20. “I Can’t Give Everything Away” – David Bowie (5:48)
  21. “Traveling Light” – Leonard Cohen (4:25)
  22. “One More Night” – Michael Kiwanuka (3:55)
  23. “About to Find Out” – Margo Price (3:13)
  24. “A Beautiful Sea” – Sing Street (3:04) – from the motion picture “Sing Street”
  25. “So Bad” – Young Gun Silver Fox (4:03)
  26. “SOS (Overboard)” – Joseph (3:00)
  27. “Honeybody” – Kishi Bashi (4:27)
  28. “Black Man In A White World” – Michael Kiwanuka (3:34)
  29. “Four Years of Chances” – Margo Price (4:34)
  30. “See Me Slumber” – Young Gun Silver Fox (3:20)
  31. “The Noisy Days Are Over” – Field Music (6:25)
  32. “Can’t Let Go, Juno” – Kishi Bashi (4:23)
  33. “Fallin’ Rain (Link Wray cover)” – Karl Blau (10:04)

 

Back to the 80s: My 2014 live music recap December 29, 2014

Posted by Brian in Brian Kelley, concerts, links, Music, NJ, Philadelphia, video, WXPN, YouTube.
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Tom Bailey of Thompson Twins

Tom Bailey of Thompson Twins performs “Hold Me Now” at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pa., on Aug. 22, 2014. YouTube screenshot courtesy of user Steve Vitalidol.

Although my concert-going days have been limited since 2012, when my first son was born (and another one coming in early March 2015), I still try to make it to shows in my area—especially if it’s a band or artist I REALLY like and haven’t seen before or in a long time.

It wasn’t really by design, but many of the concerts I attended in 2014 were acts known more for their activity in the 1980s—Johnny Clegg, Gary Numan, The Fixx, Midge Ure (of Ultravox/Rich Kids/Visage/Band Aid fame), Howard Jones, Tom Bailey (former leader of the Thompson Twins), China Crisis and Katrina Leskanich (of Katrina & The Waves fame).

My year of live music kicked off in March with synth-rock legend Gary Numan at the Trocadero in Philadelphia. Numan’s “Cars” was a childhood favorite of mine (it was released in late 1979, when I was 8) and led to my picking up various Gary Numan/Tubeway Army records, cassettes and CDs over the years. When I saw he was playing in Philly and could get the evening free, I took advantage of the opportunity to see a legend who influenced so many electronic/pop/rock artists I love, including (most obviously) Nine Inch Nails. Here are a couple of YouTube videos from this show:

Gary Numan – “Are Friends Electric?”
Trocadero, Philadelphia, Pa., March 23, 2014

Gary Numan – “Cars”
Trocadero, Philadelphia, Pa., March 23, 2014

Later that month, I was at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia for one of the greatest concert experiences of my lifetime. Since I first heard “Cruel, Crazy Beautiful World” by Johnny Clegg & Savuka in the late 1980s, I have admired Clegg’s music and mission. Also, he’s one of the most interesting human beings in the world. You can check out his Wikipedia entry for details, but very few people can claim to be a singer-songwriter/French knight/professor of anthropology/Zulu dance master/political activist/human rights champion…AND performed on stage with a dancing Nelson Mandela in front of thousands.

Recently, I had been thinking that Clegg’s life and music would be a perfect fit for a stage musical and was thinking of how to connect with some people I now work with to explore that possibility. Well, according to Clegg’s Wikipedia entry, he is already working on one. If Johnny Clegg somehow sees this…if you complete the musical and would like to bring it to the United States, I might be able to convince a prominent theater in central New Jersey to take stage it there.

Anyway, here is an excellent write-up on the show, which also included Johnny’s son, Jesse, as the opening act. What was cool about this for me was that “Cruel, Crazy Beautiful World” was written as a pre-emptive farewell to Jesse when he was a young boy, at a time when Johnny was under threat of assassination due to his part in the fight against apartheid in South Africa.

I’ve only found one YouTube video from the show I saw in March, but it’s a good one. Here is Johnny Clegg performing “Giyana”…

Johnny Clegg – “Giyana”
World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, Pa., March 30, 2014

In July, my family tries to spend at least a few hours at WXPN’s annual XPoNential Music Festival in Camden, N.J., since there are always acts we enjoy–and this year was no different. We managed to see Ingrid Michaelson (to whom my wife and I first danced as a married couple), Nicole Atkins, Diego Garcia, Strand of Oaks, Lake Street Dive and Commonwealth Choir, among others. Unfortunately, the last time I looked, there weren’t any videos from the three-day festival on YouTube that I could find.

My 80s-themed concert-going experiences continued, though, in August when I went to Jenkinson’s on the boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J.–right next to my hometown of Brick Township–to see The Fixx, who I hadn’t seen since a May 1991 at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J. My wife and I brought our kid to the boardwalk about two weeks before the show at Jenk’s (as it’s colloquially known) and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw them listed on the concert schedule. I decided I had to go and I’m really glad I did, because they freakin’ rocked. I mean, this isn’t frontman Cy Curnin with some replacement guys. While not the original Fixx lineup, it’s still the classic version of the band that had a string of hits in the 1980s like “Saved by Zero” (now, a staple of car commercials promoting 0% financing or no money down gimmicks), “Red Skies,” “Stand or Fall” and “One Thing Leads to Another.”

There are a few YouTube videos of The Fixx in action at Jenk’s, but most are just parts of songs. Here is a full version of Cy & Co. performing “Deeper and Deeper,” which is pretty awesome…

The Fixx – “Deeper and Deeper”
Jenks Club, Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., August 5, 2014

Later that month, I put an exclamation point on my 1980s-themed concert year when my wife and I attended the RetroFutura Tour show at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pa., on August 22, 2014. This show featured sets by several artists who many consider as “80s acts” like Katrina Leskanich (who has left The Waves behind), China Crisis (whose “Arizona Sky” is one of my all-time favorite songs), Midge Ure (one of my all-time favorite artists who I also saw in January 2013 and in June 1989), Howard Jones (this marked my fifth time seeing HoJo, another all-time great in my book) and Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins, who was returning to the stage for the first time in 27 years.

I put together a playlist of YouTube videos from that memorable night, but below is the show’s finale…Tom Bailey performing an extended version of the Thompson Twins’ classic, “Hold Me Now.” This was the second night of the tour and on the previous (opening) night in New York City, the song just ended on the final drum hit. But the next night, something kind of magical happened–and I was proud to be part of the audience (which redeemed itself for being pretty lame for most of the night). As Bailey and his band played out the final measures of the song, the standing crowd was singing the chorus. But when the music stopped, the crowd kept going. Obviously moved, Bailey brought his all-female backing band to the front of the stage to sing along with the crowd…FOR ANOTHER THREE CHORUSES!

I was so happy to witness and participate in this…it still brings chills when I watch the video.

Tom Bailey (of Thompson Twins) – “Hold Me Now”
Keswick Theatre, Glenside, Pa., August 22, 2014

What’s even more awesome about this video is that if I pause it just before the end at the 8:27 mark, I can totally see the backs of our heads near the bottom of the video window.

I actually saw a few more live acts at a special WXPN donor party celebrating 10 years at their home adjacent and within the World Cafe Live complex in Philly. The event took place a couple of hours after I ran in WXPN’s first-ever 5K to benefit its Musicians on Call program, so I cleaned up a bit, changed clothes and–after some walking around University City–came back to watch up-and-coming Icelandic singer-songwriter Asgeir and one of my favorites, Mike Doughty (formerly of Soul Coughing, back in the 1990s). Again, though…no YouTube videos from that event.

With another kid on the way, getting to some live shows in 2015 is going to be a huge struggle. Sure, we might try to get in a few hours at the XPoNential Music Festival again in July, and I’m going to try to get to a Kasim Sulton show at Tin Angel in Philly in late January (and I just saw Sophie B. Hawkins is going to be there a few days later on January 31…I’m going to have to choose). The recently reunited Spandau Ballet is going to be at Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, N.J., on February 10, but I’m not sure about that one. Midge Ure is returning to World Cafe Live in Philly on February 24, but unfortunately that’s way too close to my wife’s due date (although I would really like to see Midge three years in a row after not seeing him for nearly 24 years).

What I am most excited for, from a musical standpoint, in 2015 is the long-awaited release of the new Tears For Fears album, which Roland and Curt have been working on for close to a year now. That’s supposedly coming out late in 2015.

Happy New Year!

40 years ago, a lamb lay* down on Broadway November 18, 2014

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The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway coverOn this date in 1974, Genesis released one of the greatest albums of all time and the group’s last with Peter Gabriel as frontman, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.

*I’ll never completely grasp the whole lie/lay/lain thing without having to consult the rules, but “lay” is the past tense of “lie” so “lay” appears to be correct in this headline. Grammar Girl says so.

Some quick thoughts on Band Aid 30 November 17, 2014

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So there’s a new, reworked version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” that’s been recorded to help in the fight to stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa–and it just happens to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the first version of the song, which was the work of Bob Geldof and Midge Ure (one of my personal musical heroes).


Buy the song. Stop the virus. #BandAid30
Download now on iTunes – http://po.st/DoTheyKnow
Google Play – http://po.st/DoTheyKnowGp
Please donate: http://www.bandaid30.com/donateCD single pre-order here: http://po.st/CDsingle
Pre-order it on Amazon here: http://po.st/DoTheyKnowAm

Overall, I really like the new version, which I didn’t really expect. I know it’s not the greatest song in the world–and both Geldof and Ure are its harshest critics at times–but it was groundbreaking for its time in 1984, when the goal was to help fight hunger in Ethiopia.

The Independent | Band Aid 30 lyrics: Reworked Ebola-themed ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’ revealed

Upon repeat listenings of the new version, I’d have to say the two weakest links are Sam Smith and Chris Martin. Smith has an interesting vocal quality, but needs to hone the actual skill of singing. In his first line, his “Christmas time” sounds more like “Christmas dime.” I have no freakin’ clue what he’s slurring in his second part during the bridge–that’s a mess and I can only assume that was the best take they could get in the limited time they had to record the song (which happened this past Saturday in London). I know Smith is one of the hottest artists on the planet right now, but I just don’t get it. The blandness of his songs doesn’t do anything to cover up the many flaws in his vocal style either.

And Chris Martin’s voice is just grating as usual–like nails on a chalkboard. Of course, I’m one of the biggest anti-Coldplay folks in the world so I’ll admit to bias on that one. Sinead O’Connor’s vocals are kind of weak, too, but there’s a hint of desperation in them that kind of fits the song so I’ve become accepting of them.

Everyone else does a real nice job. I’m a huge fan of Elbow and frontman Guy Garvey’s part (at the 1:26 mark of the video above) is fantastic…wish he got more to do, actually.

In my opinion, though, the real star of this latest version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is Rita Ora, who amazingly only had 90 minutes to record her parts so she could get back to her filming commitments on UK’s version of The Voice. I’m not sure if it was planned going into the recording or if Ure and Paul Epworth picked up on it while producing the track, but she got some prime spots to shine here. Ora sings the first line as the beat kicks in after the One Direction/Ed Sheeran introduction, and then she gets the soaring vocal that leads wonderfully into the “feel the world/heal the world” chorus (as opposed to the original’s “feed the world”). Plus, she gets a little lead part during the chorus. It’s subtle in the mix, but once you see it in the video, you can pick it up with your ears.

BuzzFeed has a post identifying who sings what in the 2014 version.

 

Christmas 2013 YouTube Video Playlist December 24, 2013

Posted by Brian in Brian Kelley, Christian Beach, holiday, links, Music, video, YouTube.
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A compilation of some of my favorite songs celebrating Christmas and the holiday season, in general. The playlist starts with the latest “demo” version of a Christmas song I originally wrote in 2011, “It’s Christmas Time Again.” Enjoy…

Christmas 2013 YouTube Video Playlist

Includes:

  • “It’s Christmas Time Again” – Brian Kelley
  • “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – Darlene Love
  • “Christmas Time is Here” – Vince Guaraldi Trio
  • “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” – John Lennon
  • “Thanks for Christmas” – Three Wise Men (aka XTC)
  • “The Closing of the Year” – Wendy & Lisa
  • “Fairytale of New York” – The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl
  • “Do They Know it’s Christmas?” – Band Aid (1984)
  • “3 Ships” – Jon Anderson
  • “This is Christmas” – Curt Smith
  • “Never Gonna Be Alone on Christmas” – Work Drugs
  • “Holiday Face” – Dent May
  • “Christmas Must Be Tonight” – Christian Beach (The Band cover)
  • “Holiday” – Mike Doughty with Rosanne Cash
  • “Little Drummer Boy” – Nicole Atkins
  • “Skating” – Vince Guaraldi Trio
  • “Matches for Sale/Say What?” – GrooveLily

 

Support 99% Invisible on Kickstarter November 9, 2013

Posted by Brian in arts, links, podcasting, technology, Technology and the Arts, video.
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99% Invisible

99% Invisible

If you listen to the Technology and the Arts podcast I do with John LeMasney, then you will know that I’ve mentioned 99% Invisible, a fantastic podcast and public radio program about design and architecture hosted by Roman Mars, a few times this past season.

While season 4 of the 99% Invisible podcast has been successfully funded through Kickstarter, the fundraising effort is currently into its “stretch goal” phase. One such stretch goal comes from one of the podcast’s sponsors, MailChimp, which has put up a challenge grant of $20,000 should the podcast reach 10,000 backers on Kickstarter. As I type this, they are at 7,383 with 13 days to go.

If you are interested in stories about design and architecture told in fascinatingly interesting ways and are unfamiliar with 99% Invisible, go the podcast’s web site right now and listen to a few episodes. I am sure you will find it as entertaining and informative as I do…and if that should encourage you to help 99% Invisible reach this stretch goal, just go to the podcast’s Kickstarter page and pledge as little as $1. Just a buck and you will be counted as a backer toward the stretch goal of 10,000.

Time Takes Over…25 years later October 24, 2013

Posted by Brian in Brian Kelley, Christian Beach, links, Music, New Jersey, NJ, SoundCloud, TMC, video, YouTube.
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When I was a teenager in the late 1980s and still had dreams of becoming a professional songwriter/musician, I wrote and recorded a song I called “Time Takes Over” in October 1988.  It was probably the first complete song (with words and music) I ever wrote.

The subject matter was based on sentiments expressed by a former co-worker of mine who was describing how he visited a girl at college after having a summer fling with her. He thought it was more than that, but she didn’t see it that way. Anyway, that was the basis of the lyrics, which—for the first time in my musical life—flowed out practically simultaneously with the music.

The original 1988 version below, written when I was 17, does not include the vocals, but you will hear them later on in this post in other forms. Please note that I transferred this from an old cassette tape so that accounts for the audio artifacts.

In 1989/1990, I was in an ill-fated techno-rap outfit called TMC+The New Generation and—after a few arrangement tweaks by my friend and then-bandmate Christian Beach—we performed “Time Takes Over” during a very poorly structured live show at the ol’ Green Parrot Rock Club in Neptune, N.J., which you can see below.

Finally, a few years ago, I recorded an updated version in GarageBand on my MacBook that includes vocals. In 2012, I re-recorded the vocals and made some additional tweaks. That is the version you can hear below. Enjoy.

Midge Ure at World Cafe Live in Philly, 1-10-2013 January 11, 2013

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Midge Ure  – “Vienna” (World Cafe Live, Philly – 1/10/2013

Thanks to my wife for allowing me to get a night to myself, I was able to go down to Philly to see the legendary Midge Ure, backed by Los Angeles-based band Right the Stars (who also served as opening act), perform at World Cafe Live last night.

What an amazing show and it was really special seeing an artist with such a lengthy pop/rock music pedigree performing in such an intimate venue. For those who don’t know, Midge Ure is best known as the lead singer and driving force behind the best-known iteration of 80s synth-pop heroes Ultravox and as the man who was essentially ordered by Bob Geldof to write what became “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”—the charity track recorded by Band Aid and produced by Ure in 1984.

However, Ure also spent time in groups like Visage, The Rich Kids, Thin Lizzy and Slik. He even reportedly turned down an invitation to become lead singer of the Sex Pistols in 1975. In short, the guy has been around for a long time and has done an awful lot with his immense talent.

This was only my second time seeing Ure in concert. The other time was when he opened for Howard Jones at what was then called the Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., on June 16, 1989. But, damn…Midge still brings it.

The video above is Midge Ure—with Right the Stars—performing Ultravox’s classic 80s hit, “Vienna,” at World Cafe Live last night. The clip comes from YouTube user vwall10411, who I’ve turned to a lot for videos from Philly-area concerts, and there are a few more videos after the jump.

From Setlist.fm, here is the set list from last night’s show…

I See Hope in the Morning Light (missing on Setlist.fm)
Love’s Great Adventure (Ultravox)
Call of the Wild
Breathe
Fade To Grey (Visage)
Cold Cold Heart
Answers To Nothing
Just For You
No Regrets (Tom Rush cover that was a No. 9 UK hit for Midge Ure in 1982)
Vienna (Ultravox)
Dear God
One Small Day (Ultravox)
Hymn (Ultravox)
Dancing With Tears In My Eyes (Ultravox)
If I Was

Encore:
Do They Know It’s Christmas?* (Band Aid, written by Midge Ure & Bob Geldof; produced by Midge Ure)

* – solo acoustic performance

(more…)

Revisiting electronic, instrumental music August 8, 2012

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I have been pretty obsessed with the electronic, instrumental music featured during the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games, especially the brilliant “And I Will Kiss” by Underworld (see video below), and it has rekindled my interest in the genre.

Back in the early 1990s, when I was part of a techno-industrial-rap project with my friend Christian Beach, we wrote something that I believe we were calling “Why Can’t We Live as One?” at the time. The original intent was to have rap vocals accompany the music, but what we got around to recording actually provides the foundation for a pretty cool instrumental track.

Anyway, here is the original instrumental version of “Why Can’t We Live as One?”

[audio http://tandemwiththerandom.com/misc/music/WhyCantWeLiveAsOne-Original.mp3]

And below is a new version of the track that I recorded last weekend with GarageBand on my Mac…

And here is the reason for my renewed interest in electronic, instrumental music…all 17 minutes, 16 seconds of it…

“And I Will Kiss” by Underworld (featuring Dame Evelyn Glennie on percussion)

My first Peter Gabriel concert…25 years ago today July 21, 2012

Posted by Brian in Brian Kelley, concert, Peter Gabriel, Philadelphia, video, YouTube.
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Although I first saw Peter Gabriel live at the Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope show at Giants Stadium in June 1986, it wasn’t until July 21, 1987, at the old Spectrum in Philadelphia that I got to enjoy the full PG concert experience.

And it was amazing. And in the 25 years since that show, I have seen Peter Gabriel in concert seven times* and each show blows me away.

* One of the seven shows was Peter Gabriel backed by his New Blood Orchestra in June 2011.

Peter Gabriel will be returning to the United States later this year for a tour celebrating the 25th anniversary of the tour supporting his classic 1986 album, So. And it was 25 years ago today, that my sister and I sat in row 16 on the floor in the Spectrum and took in the spectacle that is Peter Gabriel—backed by Tony Levin on bass, David Rhodes on guitars, founding E Street band member David Sancious on keyboards and Manu Katché on drums/percussion—in concert.

At this point, I need to correct something I have misstated over the years on my various blogs. There is a lot of video on YouTube of a Peter Gabriel show at the Spectrum in July 1987 that I always thought was from the concert I was at. Well, I messed that up. The YouTube video is from the July 20, 1987, show in Philly…my sister and I went to the show the following night, July 21.

However, I recently discovered that a bootleg of the July 21, 1987, show I was at has been floating around for years, and I just happened to come into possession of it within the past few weeks. This means I can relive the experience of that show whenever I want to, which is kind of cool.

In any case, I will get to relive the experience when I see Peter Gabriel—with the same backing band—perform So in its entirety along with other PG classics at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly on September 21. With family commitments ever increasing, it will likely be my last opportunity to see Peter Gabriel in concert so I splurged for fourth-row tickets…can’t wait.

So…here are some videos from PG’s July 20, 1987, show at the Spectrum in Philly—the night before I attended my first Peter Gabriel concert.

Peter Gabriel – This Is The Picture (Spectrum – July 20, 1987)
Trivia: Manu Katché is using a guitar-shaped MIDI controller then called the Dynacord Rhythm Stick to trigger sounds from a drum machine…it was later renamed The JAMMA.

Peter Gabriel – Red Rain (Spectrum – July 20, 1987)

Peter Gabriel – Games Without Frontiers (Spectrum – July 20, 1987)
Always loved this arrangement.

Peter Gabriel – No Self Control (Spectrum – July 20, 1987)
This basically kicks ass.

Peter Gabriel – Solsbury Hill (Spectrum – July 20, 1987)
A highlight of any Peter Gabriel show…such a great song.

Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer (Spectrum – July 20, 1987)
Even though this isn’t among my top 10 favorite Peter Gabriel songs…it always kicks ass live.

Peter Gabriel – Lay Your Hands on Me
This isn’t from the 7/20/87 show at the Spectrum. It is from the POV concert video, but back in his younger days, PG would do some crowdsurfing whenever he performed this song…the laying on of hands at the 5:44 mark of the clip. He did this at our show and it was awesome, so I had to include it here.

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