The Bodhisattva Beat
Music and Life

Peter Gabriel Live 9/26/2012

I have always been averse to paying large sums of money for a single concert. I like Rush, but there is no way I was going to shell out $100 + to see them the last two times they came around. When the prices were posted for Peter Gabriel’s Back to Front tour I flinched. But then I remembered that this is the gentleman who never fails to impress and did give me the yet to be topped, greatest concert experience of my life in 1982. In other words he is worth every penny.

Last year was the New Blood concept with the orchestra. It was very cool, but I was looking forward to the return of the rock band. Being that the focus of the show was the “So” album, he reunited the original touring band. David Rhodes on Guitar, David Sancious on keys, Manu Katché on drums, and of course the legendary Tony Levin on bass, stick and camera (for pictures of the audience). For New Blood he had Ane Brun, who also provided vocals for him, open the show. Unfortunately she had to bow out and her friend Jennie Abrahamson filled in accompanied by cellist Linnea Olsson. I very much enjoyed Ane Brun but Jennie is really something special. She is a superb songwriter with a sweet voice. Her piano and Linnea’s strings provided more than enough power. I would say that I wanted the set to be longer but not with Peter in the house. Thankfully we hadn’t seen the last of them.

It was very odd to see Gabriel come on stage with the lights still up. The first instinct is, “Oh no! There’s a problem.” He immediately explained by describing what was to transpire. The first part was to emulate a rehearsal room experience, so the lights were staying on. Then the stage show would commence, and finally the entirety of “So.” Sticking to the plan, the very first song was one that he said was not yet completed. His wife very much wanted that said because the audience might have thought he was drunk when mumbling over over unfinished parts. Tony entered the stage alone, Those of us who knew went nuts, and it was just a duet for “OBUT.” The rest of the band joined for the next three numbers, including a very jazzy version of “Shock the Monkey.” I thought the idea worked quite well. Even though we were in the spacious Palace of Auburn Hills (go Pistons!) it still felt intimate.

Then the house lights went down and the band ripped into a blistering version of “Digging in the Dirt.” There were big rolling light stands on a track that circled the stage, light operators in overhead riggings, and cameras in all sorts of weird positions. He images were being altered when the hit the center and two side screens so it was difficult at first to tell what was up. It was the shot of Tony from the camera at end of his bass neck that really impressed me. Other classics were performed including of course “Solsbury Hill.” I may be getting jaded in my old age but as great as that tune is I am getting a bit tired of it. Licensing to Hollywood was a great business move and they have gotten a lot of mileage out of the first Gabriel solo classic.

The third part was “So” from beginning to end. Each song performed with love and excellence.

Even with more than enough material already offered, the band still came out for an encore. Beginning with “The Tower That Ate People” and ending with “Biko.” That took me right back to my very first Peter Gabriel show as I sang and pumped my arm up to the very end.

The only negative was that I could tell some of the fans were just there to relive their youth. They had probably never heard of Peter Gabriel before “Sledgehammer” was a hit. Constantly playing with their phones and up and down for more beer. Does that make me a snob? No, it makes me and the rest of the serious fans connoisseurs.

Gabriel is definitely older. You won’t hear those old high notes and his stage antics are very much more subdued. Even if he isn’t doing free falls into the audience anymore that doesn’t lessen the power of this performer and the group of musicians surrounding him. Every one of them is a skilled artist and they have no problem proving it. Peter at 62 and Tony at 66 could go up against any current younger musicians and blow them away. Hell they still blow me away and I saw them first over 30 years ago. So as long as they are willing to tour I will be shelling out the bucks for a ticket.

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