Careful What You Ask For
There are two requests that immediately spring to mind listening to the bootleg disc of Wally and myself live in Southern Africa. They were pretty much the first and last of the entire tour and I’m happy to say we were able to fulfill both of them.
The first was simple enough and came in the awkward silence that preceded our first show for the dozen people who would be travelling with us for the entire tour. It was a request in the negative – an ‘un-request’ really – and it was met communally with an apprehensive chortle. ‘Can we ask you please not to play Father’s Day?’. It was made in the best of spirits and in no way demonstrative or nasty. It was simply serving notice they were hoping for something special, for Wally and myself to stretch out and see what could be prized from the repertoire we have spent the last thirty years nurturing. And while it’s never any trouble to play it, it’s certainly no trouble not to play it.
So for the first three shows in Africa the most commercially successful song of our career happily sat on the bench and it wasn’t until our first fully public club show outside Cape Town we would dust it off. And the thing is, although none of the locals were familiar with the song, there was something about playing it that was immediately comforting. I think there was a fair recognition on the part of the touring party that it is a song pretty instant in it’s appeal. It’s straightforward; it has a riff, a hook, an emotional resonance and a natural crescendo. In short, it works.
And the last request came as we played on a boat in the Zambezi River. It had been a long set as the boat had headed down stream. We were pretty much aware the tour was nearing its end and it was sort of symbolic as the engines started and the boat turned to head back to bank where we had departed a few hours before. There seemed a similar awareness among the punters and as a fair amount of the more difficult and obscure requests had been attempted with a decent degree of competence and gusto over the previous weeks the party began to intermittently fall silent. Finally we heard someone mumble the unlikely song title The Infanticide of Marie Farrar – a poem by Bertolt Brecht we had adapted on the first Weddings album in 1986. A great idea we both thought and while a touch macabre and somber and certainly not what would you would think a fitting way to end such a wonderful trip (and special gig) it was perfect really. They sang along quietly, they murmured the semi spoken word verses and it felt good to end the whole thing on a note of such gravity.
So what we have ended up with is a strange selection of fifteen songs from different stages of our career but one we are pretty happy with. Welcome to Zimbabwe: Live in Southern Africa should be available for sale by the end of next week. Like the tour itself it closes with a very noisy waterlogged version of Marie Farrar and there is, of course, no sign of Father’s Day.