Monday, November 12, 2007

Stuff Involving Peter Gabriel

I've been a Peter Gabriel fan for years, which on the one hand is frustrating because he can take as long as a decade between studio releases, but on the other hand is kind of nice because it's not like he's flooding the market with inferior products. 2002's UP album (which counts as recent for him) didn't make any kind of commercial impact, but it's a strong album nonetheless.

A few years ago, though, like Pearl Jam, he decided to release high-quality recordings of every one of his concerts on CD, though through an online source, not in stores. You can insert the obligatory comment abut physical recording media being dead, but I still think this is a really cool thing to do. I do wish Gabriel and other artists (besides the Grateful Dead, whom I can't stand listening to) had done this years ago when they were in their creative prime, rather than now, when they may very well produce a good show but have passed the point where their concerts have the spark of vitality that can make a live performance truly special. Keeping the set lists nearly the same from show to show means buying more than one set is only for the truly obsessed.

Genesis, for example, is one of my favorite bands, and I considered attending one of their shows at the Hollywood Bowl for their reunion tour last month. But I didn't. Why? Not just because of the price tag, but because what I would really have liked to see would have been Genesis in a theatre in England in their early prime in 1973 or a bigger stage circa 1980, at their crucial transition from prog to pop. Even if it's the same guys on stage, a concert today just isn't going to be the time machine performance I'd like to see. (Ditto for the Police.)

But how cool would it be if, say, the Arcade Fire or Fiery Furnaces were releasing live recordings (CD or digital-only or whatever) of all their shows? Then a music historian or interested fan could listen to them and hear the creative process work itself out on stage. That would be exciting!

Back to Peter Gabriel, I see that one of the humanitarian things he's done is, along with Richard Branson, fund the "Global Elders," a super-team of ancient embodiments of the primal cosmic forces, or, as we like to call them, retired world politicians. Sorry, I can't help but think of the Elders of the Universe with that name. Anyway, this group includes people like Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, etc., and I guess they're supposed to go around the world resolving conflicts and stuff like that. Sounds like a noble mission, but I feel like any kind of honest assessment of their chances of success will make me sound like a wet blanket.


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