It has been 30 years since breakthrough album So was unleashed upon the world, spawning hits such as “Sledgehammer”, “Don’t Give Up” and “Big Time”.
Whilst Peter Gabriel is working on his new album, in his spare time he decided to go on a world tour and play this album from beginning to end.
Gabriel serenely strolls upon the stage to introduce the supporting singers, Jennie Arbahamson and Linnea Olson.
Jennie plays the glockenspiel and Linnea the cello. It was a strange combination that bewildered a lot of the crowd.
For the more open-minded, it felt like an innovative experience.
Both Jennie and Linnea have fantastic voices that filled the arena and their harmonies combined with the two instruments created a pleasing ambient sound-scape.
Peter returned and explained the order of the day, likening it to a 3-course meal.
For starters was an acoustic set with Gabriel on Piano. This included a work-in-progress song that he has co-written with his 13-year-old son.
On previous nights, he hummed parts of the song but this time there were lyrics to the whole piece. The song evolves with the tour.
At this point, legendary bassist Tony Levin was introduced to much applause for the eclectic genius, who was in New York only last month playing for King Crimson.
For this and the main course electric set he played a lot from his third and fourth solo albums (III and IV) including “Family Snapshot”, “No Self Control” and “Shock The Monkey”.
A highlight of the electric set was “Digging the Dirt” off the album Us. It came across much heavier than the album version. Verily rocked the house.
The third course was soon upon us and it was becoming more and more apparent the trouble and effort that Gabriel has gone to for this tour.
A large section of the floor where seats would usually be was taken up by masses of screens and supercomputers that performed on-the-fly editing of real-time footage.
This included the processing of special effects which manipulated the visuals of the musicians in different ways. For example, on the first track of So, “Red Rain”, computerised polygons are super-imposed over the musicians, making them look like something out of Tron.
Crane cams were in use but were not invasive.
Another clever effect was when the massive stage screen was split into tiny real-time screens of all the different musicians, all moving along the big screen at pace.
It was all tastefully done and those suffering from epilepsy would have been fine I’m sure.
This was the kind of gig where you mostly sat in awe of this amazing vocalist, apart from Sledgehammer, where a few people spontaneously got up to dance (obscuring my view, the swines).
He did not change the key of any of his songs and sounded just as he did 30 years ago. His voice and songs are truly timeless.
Thoughts of a Genesis reunion sprung to mind, of course. He could easily pull off the songs from the 70s.
After So, there was a fourth course, a little Supper was Ready, shall we say.
Biko was introduced with a reminder that there are other parts of the world not as fortunate as ours. The whole arena sung with him.
It was a profound feeling to be in a crowd singing about social justice and peace as one.
Gabriel shouldn’t leave it as long for his next visit to Liverpool.