The Bodhisattva Beat
Music and Life

Peter Gabriel: Plays Live

Plays Live: 1983

Plays Live: 1983

I saw this tour when I was 16, and it still stands out as one of the greatest concert experiences of my life. The opening band was horrible, but Peter more than made up for it. The entrance from the back of the arena, with Gabriel carrying a marching bass drum was completely unexpected. Then he put an exclamation point on it by disappearing, and reappearing on top of a scaffolding singing the first note (or wail) of “The Rhythm of the Heat.” The free-fall into the audience during “Lay Your Hands on Me” was daring and spectacular. Nothing will ever match chanting along with “Biko,” with arms raised long after the band had left the stage. I have seen him since, and many other great shows, but this was the best.

I was ecstatic when I found out an album from this tour was being released. The recording did not let me down. It covered all of the greatest moments. It even featured the surprise “I Go Swimming.” No one had heard that before the concert. It could also be the most fun thing PG has ever recorded (along with “Excuse Me”). Tony Levin especially shines on this one. All of the tracks contain the energy, and magic that I had experienced. Even “Humdrum,” which is one of his most moving performances, maintains that quality. The end, of course, is “Biko.” Remarkably, it harnesses all the power of actually being there. I won’t go into the rest, as they are well known and reported. Although, I will say that there is not one weak moment. Every bit of it is outstanding.

I am generally not a fan of most live albums. Most of the time they lack the essence of the show. Other times, the quality of the recording is poor. This one has it all. The sound is terrific (actually, it was state of the art in 1983), and the sense of awe is there. The band lineup not only features the great Tony Levin (as usual) and Jerry Marotta, but also electronic music pioneer Larry Fast (a.k.a. Synergy). This isn’t just a great live version of gabriel, or rock (prog or otherwise), this is a great live album. It is also a great place for a Peter Gabriel initiate to start. Everyone should have it.

Peter Gabriel – lead vocals, synthesizer, piano
Jerry Marotta – drums, percussion, B-vox
Tony Levin – stick, bass, B-vox
David Rhodes – guitar, B-vox
Larry Fast – synthesizer, piano

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3 Responses to “Peter Gabriel: Plays Live”

  1. I saw the same tour in 1983 at the Hammersmith Odeon in London (now it has another name, but thankfully still stands), and it was one of the best live experiences I remember. At the time, there were no CDs available yet on the market, so I bought the double vinyl version – which, of course, stayed behind when I moved to the US. Now I have the ‘Highlights’ CD, which is a pity, because one of my favourite PG tracks is missing – i.e. “Intruder”. The others included, however, more than make up for that absence. Fantastic album indeed!

  2. I had that double vinyl as well. It was pretty well worn out by the time I lost it (along with the rest of my vinyl). I have the double CD version now. Why did you settle for highlights?

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