‘Persuasive danger in everything you say…’

I have a song in my head.  Not the one that features the line I’ve borrowed for the post’s title (although that one pops in and out), but another by that same band has been cycling through my brain pretty consistently for the past week or so.

‘I could never keep a beat
Too busy in my paradise
Put a crocodile in high office
And something out of place inside

When all is said and all is done
My hands that work with a fire and steel

Fashion play your part
To be workers of red
Fashion play your part
To be workers

While all the time you dance around
And things get fucked and we’re to blame
And I couldn’t think political blue

When all is said and all is done
My hands that work with a fire and steel

And motionless we’ll slip away
Images are my thoughts too real’

China Crisis was here this weekend.  My bff won me tickets to go see them.  Which I haven’t done since 1986 or thereabouts (pretty sure it was the year What Price Paradise came out).  But since they once played an historic (from my perspective anyway) show with Simple Minds, and since Simple Minds was just here…

Fletch and went to Hugh’s Room and hung out with them on Sunday to revisit that 1983 classic double bill (even with the gap of a couple of weeks between the bands this time ’round- and the reversal of the order in which they appeared).

Gotta say.  Even had the tickets not been free, it would have been fantastic value for the money.  Gary was as much a comedian as he was the lead singer- with that distinctive voice of his- of a band whose music has stood the test of time quite remarkably.  There was nostalgia in abundance, but a whole lot of laughs as well.

Hugh’s Room is an interesting venue- first time there (although not likely to be the last)- and its dinner theatre vibe contributed to the overall sense of the cabaret from the get go (I admit I expected a willkommen to start off the evening).  The two original members of the band- Eddie Lundon and Gary Daly- seemed very much the same as they did well over 20 years ago (Eddie still looks like Eddie Munster all grown up.  It’s the widow’s peak, I guess).  They were relaxed and personable- and in great musical form.  Eddie’s guitar was pretty damn sublime at times, and Gary’s voice (did I mention its distinctiveness?) had me remembering the lyrics to songs I hadn’t listened to in ages- and, at his suggestion (provided you could carry a tune/had some sense of rhythm), participating in the show.  We are all members of the band, apparently.

(Now that’s a status update I should have registered on the facebook. Cole has joined China Crisis.  Like the sound of that.  Not sure I could handle the touring schedule, but I can certainly sing/clap some accompaniment pretty professionally…)

Difficult Shapes and Passive Rhythms Some People Think it’s Fun to Entertain, remains among my all time favourite album titles- and it was well-represented by lovely versions of African and White and Christian, their last encore for the evening.  Early on Gary asked if they should play Working With Fire and Steel– from the album Working With Fire and Steel- Possible Pop Songs Volume Two– to which the response was, of course, an overwhelming ‘yes please’ (Canadian audience- we remain polite even when over-excited), and so I finally got to hear those distinctive opening notes live and in person, rather than from the inside of my brain.  Hanna Hanna wasn’t on the playlist, but they supplied a strong rendition of Wishful Thinking, so the album was well-represented.

Their third album, Flaunt the Imperfection, is probably my sentimental favourite.  It so clearly evokes a specific time and place- namely the Government Landing on a particular lake in Cottage Country where I would sit, with my Walkman and the cassette, for a space of tranquility and alone time every day of my summer sojourn in the northlands.  I have their first two albums (and, for some reason, also their 4th and 5th) on vinyl, but Flaunt the Imperfection was first purchased on cassette- and is the only one that I replaced with a CD, when the time came to upgrade my music to the technology du jour.  There are songs from the rest of their repertoire that have made it into the iTunes library, but that whole album is there- even if it has been somewhat neglected of late.

I love it in its entirety, but You Did Cut Me, Bigger the Punch I’m Feeling and The World Spins I’m Part of it, combined with the more commercially successful King in a Catholic Style and the beautiful Black Man Ray, are among the songs that I associate most with the summer and moments of quietude in one of most-beloved places in the world.  The album was very well represented Sunday night, to my excessive delight.  It really is incredible how certain lyrics can be both timeless and timely all at once.

From the ‘put a crocodile in high office‘ of Working With Fire and Steel (honestly, every time I see the word crocodile in print somewhere, my internal dialogue speaks it in Gary’s voice) to the words of King in a Catholic Style, which could be describing our mayor right down to his ‘big body blues, their commentaries remain remarkably relevant.  The latter song almost completely describes a recently released video which Ford him ranting about taking out some unknown opponent… But, again, I digress (although the guy is handing out freakin bobble head representations of himself today.  I wish I was joking.).

‘Wake up, wake up
King in a catholic style
With your man
With your man make up
And your big money business smile
Cut ’em up, cut ’em up
Crucial to every child
With a mind
With a mind made up
And your main man confidence smile

Wake up, wake up
Exercise your every right
With your plan
On the up and up
And your prize money struggle in sight
Cut ’em up, cut ’em up
Physical in every way
Tough enough, tough enough
Face up
And blow your big body blues away’

Complimentary to the political commentary present in King in a Catholic Style, Black Man Ray is about faith, and speaks to the issues I have with the blindness that all too frequently comes along with it.  It references the ‘persuasive danger’ (I love that so very much) of the voice of the preacher along with belief and doubt and the whole cliché about, when it comes down to it, some god or other being the only one who ultimately knows.  It’s about the tension between faith and belief and the practical and critical assessment of the words of others.  The oft-requested (by those in power) suspension of disbelief as we try to learn, and the inevitable doubts that we encounter as we search out answers.

In my interpretation of the lyrics, I have always heard that last line- about god knowing- as representative of the prime cop out of faith.  Very reminiscent of the problem I have with Job (the biblical book, not the guy.  Had such a guy existed, I find it VERY difficult to believe that he would have bought the whole ‘Were you there when I created all this stuff?  No?  Then shut it‘ non-response to the questions he was asking).  You’re likely aware of the issue I have with our human propensity toward externalizing all those things we can’t get a handle on- incarnating evil and good as unreachable and untouchable beings when we should, instead, look at the stories about said beings as demonstrations of our own, human, ability to reach both those extremes.

For all its seeming simplicity, to me, that’s what this song is talking about.  How lovely it was to hear it performed live once again.

‘Are we believing
Black man ray
Are we not happy
In our own way
And we the people
Who reason why
Forever change
As time goes by

Yes, yes, I could be wrong
Why, why, should I pretend
God only knows in the end

Are we believing
The heavenly survive
Faith the future
Big life on their side
And we the people
Who can but try
Forever learn
As time goes by

Yes, yes, I could be wrong
Why, why, should I pretend
God only knows in the end

Are we believing
Black man ray
Persuasive danger
In everything you say
And we the people
Who answer you why
Forever doubt
As time goes by’

Their later albums- What Price Paradise and Diary of a Hollow Horse– saw some representation (in particular with the performance of June Bride– never one of my top picks) but it was the really good ol’ stuff that resonated the most with the crowd (unsurprisingly, the average age of the attendees was pretty much comparable to those of us at the Simple Minds show).  One friend, upon hearing that I was off to see the band, ‘jokingly’ reminded me that there has been music made in the past 20 years.  I do know this.  It has seemed like 80s-o-rama around here lately (speaking of Rama, ZZ Top was also in the environs last weekend- at Casino Rama, north of the city), and the flashbacks associated with revisiting these old friends has taken precedent over the newer stuff.

But I gotta say… Watching the band with the crowd- while on stage- and seeing Eddie outside after the show, talking companionably with his fans and posing for pictures- as well as the complete lack of pretension and posturing airs that these older dudes have displayed in the shows I’ve been privileged to see lately (for all that the Simple Minds show was at the 2700-seat Massey Hall, Jim and the lads acted like they were playing the local pub) really emphasizes the striking contrast between the seasoned musicians that I so love and the popster poseurs who seem to dominate the world of music and fill the stadiums these days.

Yes yes.  I’m old.  And ‘music today’ is ‘hardly music’ and all that.  I do try to get out to see as much new music as I can, and there ARE great musicians out there- working hard to make a name and pay the bills.  I guess what I really don’t get is the assertion that a reasonably good voice and a pretty face are enough to warrant legions of screaming fans.

As Gary joked the other night, he and Eddie had no formal musical training (he was talking about receiving the score for one of their songs from their label- seeking verification that the music was accurate- and noted that the black blobs on the page were little more than hieroglyphs to the both of them) but together (with various other band members over the years) they wrote and recorded a whole bunch of songs that, 30+ years later, still had a (slightly aged) crowd singing along and cheering them throughout.

Why?  Because the songs are actually about something.  And the tunes and the words are about themes that are universal (such as the persuasive danger inherent in the smooth voices of politicians and preachers) and therefore enduringly relevant.

Not sure that the same can be said for a whole lot of those ‘music celebrities’ out there who are selling stuff on the iTunes regularly.

Which is why, when Gary suggested a trip to the merch table to purchase a CD of some of the great live performance bootlegs (so that their hotel-staying status could be raised somewhat from their current ‘Days Inn’ level), I was happy to oblige.  I remain most pleased to offer my time- and a portion of my disposable income- to a couple of guys like Gary and Eddie, who, genuinely and without airs, appreciate their fans and don’t take them for granted (they also presented a couple of audience members- who follow their facebook page and were evidently discussing such things- with British iterations of the Remembrance Day poppies.  That’s just downright CLASSY, if you ask me).

I was reminded that, in addition to its implicit presence in religion and politics, there is also persuasive danger in the attraction to the superficial that seems to be the norm these days- as we suspend better judgement and listen to (and watch) those things we are TOLD (by the media, our politicians, business leaders) we should be tuning in to watch.

The younger generation of performers could learn a thing or two from these guys.

And they still know how to put on a great show.  Thanks for coming back to see us, lads.

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