I had only seen Genesis once before - in Paris on September 9th, that same year - and had never heard of any Peter gigs until that moment. When I found from subsequent reviews that on that very day Peter had performed in Knebworth I was quite unsettled and began having regrets... So when I saw the small ad in the Italian magazine Ciao 2001 that Medianova Spettacoli (a specialist company that organized trips abroad to see rock concerts) had set up busses to see Peter in Paris and in Geneva I didn't want to miss my chance.
(The ad is pictured here on the left )
It must be pointed out for youngsters and foreigners that in the late Seventies Italy was completely left out by any international artist tour schedule due to the long history of chaos at Italian gigs in the first half of the decade: sometimes concerts would not be affected and the havoc took place outside (many of the Torino 1975 Genesis reviews titled something along the lines of "cars burn in the street while the lamb lies down"...), but plenty of times the show themselves were interrupted by self proclaimed "autonomi" that under the slogan "music should be free" really did make a mess forcing their way inside halls without buying tickets.
Witness of these asshole's behavior were for example Led Zeppelin in 1972 (when large part of the audience was forced to get onto the stage itself to avoid fights), Lou Reed in 1973 (after disorders during his Italian support act, his set only lasted three or four numbers), and Santana in 1977 (whose show was abruptly cut short by molotov bombs and police tear-gas shots...).
Anyway, I was 16 years old at the time, young and naive, and didn't care much for all the political protest. Music was all I cared for, and I remember "working" at my mother's house chores for a week to raise the money for the trip to Switzerland (it was like: half a buck for each of the brass pieces that I would wash and polish...)!! It was my very first Gabriel gig, as I said, but to this day - over 20 years later - memories are quite vivid: it would be impossible, though, trying to recapture that magic with words, and my aim in writing this down is only to fix some points and give voice to some of my feelings as I remember them from that night. Thus be warned that what you will read are obviously and evidently biased opinions...
The busload of Italians that like me had decided to "give Peter a try" arrived at the doors of the hall in the early afternoon. We were the first ones and as soon as the gates opened it was an easy job filling up all of the rows at the front of the stage with fellow countrymen...
Support act was a great (IMHO) new wave american group - The Shirts - fronted by a singer with an excellent voice - Annie Golden. As far as I know they split up around 1980, and Annie Golden went on to become an actress (she did "Hair!" and another film I saw with her also featured Debbie Harry from Blondie - but this is bringing me quite off topic...). All I wanted to say is that ever since then Peter showed the exquisite politeness of coming out before the support band to introduce them to an audience that simply ignored there would be such an act: a gesture that I believe still has no equals in rock. Between ballads and rockers, their set (and Golden's voice) was enough to make me appreciate the group, and once back home I did get three of their albums and a couple of singles (don't know if they put out any more than that...) and always enjoyed them ever since.
Anyway, The Shirts were soon through and with all lights still up in the hall (a big unremarkable squarish venue - only thing I seem to remember is that sits on the sides and at the back of the hall, opposite the stage - were made of some weird sort of scaffolding), a white jeans and white t-shirt clad Peter (but with a "Mozo!" headline on the front -> see it in the gallery beneath Rael's leather jacket...!) began slowly walking his way through the crowd. Most of the Swiss didn't notice anything special, and only when he arrived in sight of "our" rows the commotion really began. I still remember that my first reaction in shaking hands with my "idol" (hey: I was a spotty teen-ager at the time!) was that he looked much older than the pictures of him I knew. But I will say more of his audience walk later on. Among jumps and screams, handshakes and embraces, it took Peter over ten minutes to finally make it through and get onto the stage. This was quite simple and unadorned, with 8 or 9 lamps that hanged down from the ceiling - something like those you can find in homes or offices - helped building an intimate atmosphere. The oddest thing was a sort of octopus puppy also hanging down from one of them: I never knew whether this was from one of the band or the roadies or what... I spent over an hour, waiting for the show to start, drawing a sketch of the stage (I remember counting each single light to make a faithful portrait...): this I kept for years and years and I must still have it somewhere, but now that I can finally use it for something and show it on this page I can't seem to find it... :-(
Peter started talking in French introducing his old friend Teddy (a rather large and inflatable version - not the same pelouche panda he had for example at Knebworth and which a lot of pictures portray him with). The actual song, Moi Et Mon Teddy Bear, was in fact cut up into different parts: first a verse then some chitchat; another verse and more chat... and so on. All was in French and I confess I didn't get a single word. In my position was probably half of the audience: true, Geneva is in the French side of Switzerland, but more and more voices started shouting to Peter to speak English, and Peter's answer was that that night he would only speak French... "or Italiano". That, of course, stirred up another couple of minutes of commotion that drowned any attempt of going on with Teddy Bear. And it was not the first nor the last time that such "accidents" would happen during the night.
As it as already been well documented elsewhere, at the end of this number Peter started donning large fluorescent gloves and the orange fluo shirt that characterized his appearance on that tour. Finally as he was talking and explaining that it was time to get to work and call some coworkers, the lights in the hall started dimming and some electronic music started in the background (the track is called On Presuming To Be Modern, - there's three different mixes/versions of it on the cd, and it's taken from the "Chords" album by Larry Fast that you can find here). Peter picked up a powerful spotlight and with it started roaming the audience. After a couple of minutes other lights began responding to Peter's call, and once again walking through the audience Jerry Marotta (drums), Larry Fast (keyboards), Sid McGinnis (guitars & cigarette hanging down his lips), Tony Levin (bass) and Timmy Capello (sax and keyboards) joined our man on the stage.
The show could then start "for real" with such a rocking version of On The Air that it was impossible to simply stay down on the floor, and all Italians (and quite a few Swiss, I suppose) stood suddenly up and started swaying and jumping in a frenzy (it was more like a punk scene at that moment than a b.o.f. ex-Genesis' gig). The crowd reaction was not that happy at our gesture, and the constant cries of "assit! assit!" (sit down! sit down!) kept creeping up during all subsequent pauses between each song and the next one. They were all constantly ignored too except for a brief moment during Mother of Violence... but that's a few songs ahead)
Moribund The Burgermeister - and I will point out once again that this was a first "live" impression, and not forewarned by videos or photos - was an eerie experience: Peter's walk and expressions (that nowadays can be very well seen on the Rockpalast video...) were something that really struck a note of oddity which the "I will find out" refrain only helped enhancing. The strange lyrics and at times dissonant arrangement, together with an infectious but slightly "uncoordinated" rhythm, all contribute to make this one of the songs I still recall more vividly.
With Perspective we were back in more traditional rock territory, but in this case the visual attraction, rather than Peter, was Timmy Capello saex playing... No, that's not a typo: he really did perform in quite a "suggestive" way (with Peter playing along and sort of humping him from behind!), and if you only have in mind his "Conan" looks on the Tina Turner shows and videos in the late Eighties, you are far far away from what he looked like then (again, the gallery or the Rockpalast video can give a fair idea of what I'm saying!).
To my ears, this is the tour where Humdrum sounded at its best. Larry's textures together with Peter's work on piano and synth were the essential elements in building a real kind of magic: the "meaningless" words (by Peter's own admission they were picked for sound rather than sense) in the coda got such a coloring from all this that the song - a veritable trademark of Peter's early years - really stood out as a central piece of the first part of his career.
After Teddy (that for the British might have been a single b-side, but to me was totally unheard of...) this was the second new song of the night: actually untitled, it has gone under a different set of names from bootleg to bootleg and review to review (sometimes "New Song" - as opposed to "new new song" which was an early incarnation of Family Snapshot more conveniently titled from it's refrain, again, by bootleggers and tape traders, as "Get On Back"... - sometimes "Nothing" or its French and German counterparts, respectively "Rien" and "Nichts"). Whatever the name, the "negative" in the title - as well as more obviously the music - gave away the fact that this early sketch would later become Not One Of Us. The funny thing is that while the verse in the early version disappeared from the final song, the chorus remained but lost the words and turned into the instrumental bridge of the released track. Lyrics were mostly improvised and gabrielese, and the music, though catchy and with a "hanging finale" (that was left to the audience caught in the little trick of catch phrase and response), definitely gained from subsequent changes and rearrangements that turned it into the released official number.
Then it was time for another favorite from that era/tour: what I said for the final part of Humdrum holds even more true for White Shadow. This time with the "added value" of Timmy Capello as second keyboard player (actually third one, in the song long instrumental section, when Peter was playing his Prophet too) and some really excellent steel guitar work by McGinnis (in other parts of the show his sound was far too metallic and rough for my taste, but here it fit in perfectly).
DIY always was an incredibly nice pop song, though I don't really understand Peter's high hopes for charting with such a single (he even brought it out twice!): for a start, the lyrics were far too clever; and though the melody was and is quite catchy and the refrain rocks, it still remains far too quirky for an age where Abba and the likes were top of the charts! That he was never completely satisfied with the recorded version it's testified by the three different ones available (not including the live one from Plays Live), but also by the worked and reworked live arrangement (I will go into this in detail some other time; just a word of advice: watch out for the 1983 Uk tour pages - when they will be ready...).
Like on the previous tour (of which I had read a couple of reviews) during Waiting For The Big One Peter once again introduced his crowd walking routine. First of all, though one could hear him singing, looking on stage he was nowhere to be seen, and his place was taken by Timmy Capello on the piano. Then, since Peter voice kept coming through the p.a., you started looking around, and all of a sudden there was a noise from the crowd at the far end of the hall: there was Peter all right, but only illuminated during the verses. The fact that he sung one verse on one corner and that the next verse was done in a totally different place where he had moved to in the dark added to the spooky effect and sense of "displacement": reading about it was one thing, but seeing it was different. Peter always said it was done to establish a "closer" relationship with the audience and to break down the traditional barriers between public and performer, but I must confess that this kind of displacement had different effects on me: first, I was angry because I couldn't see much of what was happening, and also, though my experience of real life rock concerts was at the time very limited, I always thought it looked more like a showoff than an act of "getting on the level"... I'm not saying it was, but I believe that Peter's point was much better clarified later on by beginning the show with either Intruder or Rhythm Of The Heat and with the stage dive for Lay Your Hands On Me - maybe because the gesture acquired a sort of iconic status that it totally lacked in 1978. Oh, well: whatever... Anyway, to finish with the song, Big One was also a way for displaying the whole band instrumental ability and professionalism by swopping their roles all around. And even Peter ended up at Jerry's stool thumping away more or less on time...
Though possibly one of the greatest numbers Peter ever wrote from a melodic point of view, Mother Of Violence has often struggled to come out even half decent on stage. Maybe theaters and smaller clubs were better, but in larger halls it almost invariably totally lost sound and significance if you were not standing two meters from Peter. In this case I was, and I loved every tenth of a second of it...
For totally different reasons, Slowburn is another song that I always liked more in its studio incarnation rather than live: I remember its complex changes of mood and rhythm breaks, the full blown orchestral bits as opposed to the much quieter piano passages were quite complicated to reproduce on stage and that night version was no exception.
Then it was time for another new number: I Don't Remember, Peter has been known to say, marked the start of his working method "rhythm up" (using the very first programmable PAiA drum machine - that Larry Fast had helped programming, if I'm not mistaken). As many others, the song went thorough a number of changes: the Geneva version was very close to the one that finally ended up as the b-side of the Games Without Frontiers single. The lyrics were almost finished by then (compared with some of the European or American earlier dates version the Gabrielese vocals had virtually disappeared) and the bass still played the lead role in building the track spine (rather than piano & guitar).
There's frankly very few words that I can spend on Solsbury Hill and Modern Love: both "singles" off the first album (much better received than either version of D.I.Y.) they have always been among the most heard songs of all and especially the first - an "anthem" since it's very first appearance. An orgy of dancing and rocking for the very audience that I believe was hardly characteristic for those that might have expected something along the lines of old Genesis shows...
A little bit of which surfaced during the first encore of The Lamb. It was, though, even then, sheer nostalgia. Wearing Rael's leather jacket was fun, and this was indeed what made Peter's solo version peculiar: it became a "funny" song, loosing any kind of dramatic overtone that it used to have before. In the final chorus Peter even dropped the mike in one of the jacket pockets and started strutting up and down the stage, swaying his hips, with a silly grin and waving good-bye with his hand... A great song, of course, nonetheless hilarious to say the least...
That's were usual shows would end, but this was the last night of an extremely long tour - though split into a few different legs - that had brought Peter all over the world since August. There would be an appendix in London the following week with a five night residency at the Hammersmith Odeon, but that probably felt like a "home match" and didn't count too much. Anyway, as I would learn in the following years, last nights on any tour are always meant for some sort of celebration (I'll give away advance suggestions again: look forward to the French 83 tour chronicles and the Secret World Tour finale at the Paris Zenith!), and this was no exception. So after the obvious encore, Peter and the band came back on stage, this time accompanied by all of The Shirts for a raging version of All Day And All Of The Night (the Kinks' classic that used to be part of the set in 1977 but as far as I know was unplayed since... they probably just rehearsed it during the soundcheck for half an hour or so). It was evident that both Peter and Annie were enjoying the duet (probably thinking of the rest they would get after that night) and it was a more than fitting conclusion for the show, the tour and my own private dream come true...