To write a review about a Peter Gabriel‘s live show is more like telling a story rather than “reviewing” it, mostly because almost no faults could be found in a show that delivered a perfectly entertaining three-course meal of grand music.
As predictable as it may sound to say, Gabriel is one of those monstre sacre that any good music enthusiast needs to see live once in their lifetime. My turn came on December 3, 2014, on the occasion of Gabriel’s show at the SSE Arena in Wembley, London. In his trademark humility, the British singer-songwriter showed up earlier on stage to introduce the opening act/backing singers, the wonderful duo made up of Swedish singers-musicians Jennie Abrahamson and Linnea Olsson, who proved to be a great musical choice. Abrahamson’s Kate-Bush-like soprano voice sweetly matched Olsson’s cello, as some tracks from both their repertoires were presented in their live renditions in a way too short performance, including tracks from Abrahamson’s upcoming album Gemini Gemini – a delicious mix of celtic pop and electronic music graciously enriched by her sharp vocals.
Thirty minutes later it was time to clear the stage for the main act, who happened to be a man who has 47 years of career on his shoulders and whose music has played a pivotal role in the whole music industry. Yet, Gabriel made no particularly triumphant entrance on stage, as he just walked towards the piano to start the first of the three sections of the show, the acoustic one, which he described as “in rehearsal mode“, probably referring to the fact that the house lights were kept on for the entire duration of the first part (i.e. Starter). This gave the performance a friendly touch, a sense of intimacy, only there were over 12,000 people in awe of a Peter Gabriel “stripped” off of the prog complexity, just delivering through the sensitiveness in his voice.
The second part (i.e. Main Course) was introduced by the switching off of the house lights as the magic of the acoustic intimacy was replaced by Peter Gabriel the true showman. This central section of the show presented a selection of more compact performances, with Gabriel’s trademark moves and the full line up on stage – whereas during the first part he was accompanied only by Olsson’s cello and Tony Levin‘s chapman stick. With a set list that unravelled from Digging In The Dirt to Solsbury Hill and the touching “prayer” Why Don’t You Show Yourself, this part of the show reached its peak with the live rendition of the black-and-white melodies of Darkness, the British singer-songwriter shining through in all his being a prog master.
The third and last part was the one most of the audience was evidently waiting for: the So album in full, live. So is arguably Peter Gabriel’s most mass-friendly work to date, which obviously resulted in the public standing up, chanting every single word to every single song for the whole third section. The light show here was a breath-taking show by itself, but when accompanying such legendary songs as Sledgehammer or Big Time, perfectly played by a band of tremendous musicians, it turned into a mesmerising experience of the five (six) senses. Kate Bush’s place in Don’t Give Up was unsurprisingly taken by Abrahamson who delivered a moving performance adding freshness to the legendary duet.
As if it hadn’t been a perfect enough show so far, after closing the So part with the beautiful In Your Eyes, the encore saw the show ending with Biko after Gabriel’s moving speech honouring all those young men and women who fight for their rights.
Such artists should just be allowed to live forever.
(Scroll down for full live photo gallery – photos by Oscar Tornincasa)
Complete Set List:
What Lies Ahead (Acoustic)
Come Talk to Me (Acoustic)
Shock the Monkey (Acoustic)
Digging in the Dirt
No Self Control
Why Don’t You Show Yourself
Don’t Give Up
That Voice Again
We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37)
This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)
In Your Eyes (with Sevara Nazarkhan)
The Tower That Ate People