Back to Front: So Anniversary Tour.
Fones 4 U Arena, Manchester
October 25, 2013
Sometimes, it is all but impossible to quantify just how outstanding a show – a performance – actually is. Such is the case with Peter Gabriel’s latest outing. In short, the man gets better as the years pass and there is no sign whatsoever of his energy subsiding one iota.
Promising what he described as a three course meal of a show, things kicked off with a deliciously low key, acoustic version of Come Talk To Me with Gabriel backed as splendidly as usual by David Rhodes and Tony Levin on bass. From that moment on, the sell out audience were in the palm of his hand and it was clear that he had absolutely no intention of letting them go.
Shock the Monkey and the deeply unnerving Family Snapshot, with the remaining original So band members – Manu Katche on drums David Sanchez on keys – took their places to drive proceedings along at a lick. If this was the appetiser, then Gordon Ramsey has a thing or two to learn.
The lights dropped suddenly and we were into the meat and substance of the rocky main course, which kicked off with an intentionally chaotic rendition of Digging in the Dirt following on, with huge lighting rigs being pushed around like neon powered dinosaurs by much worked members of the crew, to cut swathes of white light through the audience who lapped up every beat, sound, noise and rhythm they were being offered.
To follow such a rocker with something as subtle and powerful as Secret World – with Rhodes never thrashing the hell out of the closing riff better – might seem a little odd, but here it worked tremendously well, particularly as the song was then neatly sandwiched by the carnivorous Family and the Fishing Net and the self-deprecating No Self Control.
Solisbury Hill brought fun and joy to proceedings, though it has to be said that although Peter Gabriel’s voice may be forever strong, his dancing capabilities remain something that should only be exhibited at weddings.
The lights were bright, the dry ice tangibly thick but for those who followed the Growing and Still Growing Up tours of 03 and 04, there was little on show of the spectacle that underlined these shows. Did this dilute proceedings? Not a jot. Yes, watching the main man roll around in a Zorb ball and walking upside down – or downside up – was fun, but the lack of theatrics actually imbued the event with an eighties feel that was encapsulated superbly by Katche’s sublime full-on rhythmic drumming.
A small sorbet of the brand new Why Don’t You Show Yourself – written for a Mexican film yet to be released – gave way to the dessert. So gave Gabriel his rightful place amongst Rock’s glitterati and provided MTV with a lifeline in the shape of the eponymous video for the smash hit Sledgehammer.
Apart from that – MTV this is, not Sledgehammer – So in its own right is a bloody good album and, here, We Do What We’re Told is delivered as creepily as the deeply moving Mercy Street is allowed to blossom with Gabriel lying foetal on the stage as cameras and lights move in and out to show his emotions laid bare on the giant screen at the rear of the stage.
This was sheer theatre, sheer raw feeling and passion being laid out before the gathered, at its very, very best yet still more was to come as backing singer, Jennie Abrahamson, almost tore up the rule book for how to sing Kate Bush’s original section of Don’t Give Up, such was the majesty of her delivery. Part Bush, part Emile Sande, this was THE song that really brought the best out of each and every performer and had the crowd praising the Lord that Dolly Parton – Gabriel’s original thought as a singing partner on the track (Yeah, I know, just imagine that and try to sleep!) – was busy.
Yet if there is one song that epitomises Pater Gabriel’s beliefs on So, then In Your Eyes is surely it. The African rhythms intoned by Levin, Rhodes, Sanchez and Katche are never more attuned to what the singer has to say than they are on this track so that what evolves live is a piece of such resonance, depth and fervour it becomes impossible to stay seated. This is a song worthy of closing any album – any show – and its message of the need for harmony in all things is belted out and underscored threefold and then some.
However, this is not the end of the show as, for an encore, we are treated to the steady Rock beat of OVO’s The Tower That Ate People – replete with a tower of silk that seems to suck the singer in and up along its height as the gossamer is then filled in with light as he rises within.
No spectacle, eh? My mistake.
Then, following the announcement that the man’s son was in attendance, a clearly emotional Peter Gabriel announced the closing number of this closing gig of the tour and what else, really, could it be other than BIko, sung as always in memory and honour and respect of all those suffering from oppression around the world just as its inspiration – Bantu Steve Biko – had up until his murder in 1977 at the hands of the Apartheid South African government.
Right hands punching the air on cue, the bald headed, goateed, black clad master of musicianship and performance urged the assembled to carry on without him as he slipped quietly away stage right, followed one-by-one by his supremely talented colleagues, to leave only Manu Katche to wrap things up.
This was not a gig, this was an event. A magical moment in live music performance history that will be forever burned into the memory of those lucky enough to witness it in the hope that this will not be the last time the main man serves up such treats.
10/10 and then some.
1. Acoustic, full lights
2. Come Talk to Me
3. Shock the Monkey
4. Electric, white lights
4. Family Snapshot
(1st half semi-acoustic)
5. Digging in the Dirt
6. Secret World
7. The Family and the Fishing Net
8. No Self Control
9. Solsbury Hill
10. Why Don't You Show Yourself
11. So, color lights
11. Red Rain
13. Don't Give Up
14. That Voice Again
15. Mercy Street
16. Big Time
17. We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)
18. This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)
19. In Your Eyes
20. The Tower That Ate People
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