The TD Garden arena in Boston hummed. It was quiet, as the fans filed into the stadium to wait for Peter Gabriel to commence the performance. Mumbled voices and music fans of all ages were present. There was a positive tension, an anticipation, as if we were waiting for the unveiling of an art piece. We were.
Peter's instrumentals from Passion Sources/Real World music were playing. The footage of apartheid was running. This tone of seriousness was highlighted with joy and respect for Peter Gabriel's music. "He's on my bucket list" said one fan. "I have the UP DVD" "I heard he does a great stage set." Even the event staff were talking about Mr. Gabriel's music history. "I loved Gabriel in Genesis, one of the best bands ever back then." A fan who's been to many concerts pointed out to me that often the crew wear the same color uniform scrubs so that Peter knows who they are against the crowd. This tour they were wearing purple. Last tour was bright orange. I've seen Peter Gabriel three times now. First, the original SO tour back when the record was released (NY), the Growing UP tour at the Meadowlands arena in NJ, and this SO anniversary tour in Boston. So much time in music and life has passed so quickly for all of us. Peter told Billboard and The Guardian that after this tour, he will take a holiday with his family, so these performances were special events in time to the listening audience, myself included.
"Change It" appeared on the video screen. Peter walked onto the stage without announcement to address the crowd. What is the first thing he said?
Did he mean to be reminiscent of the hit single, "Big Time"?
He explained to us that Ane Brun was sick and the talented Jennie Abrahamson was going to perform tonight. This performance brought a cello and high notes, with piano picking up the tempo while the vocals floated sweetly above the first song, "In This Life to Live". Excited to be here tonight, for the first time in Boston, Jennie introduced, Amy Abrahamson. A first single off their album hailed tribute songs to those who struggle for a chance. "Hard to Come By" were the leading lyrics in this track. They mentioned that the vocals were done exclusively for this show. Their presence reminded me of Alyssa Graham, a soul singer that we reviewed on this site earlier this year. A cover song by Thom Yorke, "Atoms For Peace" was announced, and as the cellist started playing, something was dropped on the floor. It took a while to find it, but the show stayed on track with applause at the resolve. They closed the set with "Falling" from their latest album. Some slow steady cello work with spare piano ensued, which made this song all about the timing. They took their bow together. A beautiful and interesting performance, they later joined Peter Gabriel and the band for the rest of the set.
The intermission was an interesting mix of Peter Gabriel covers. "Big Time" in soul version that could almost be compared to Louis Armstrong, had a fan singing by himself in the stairwell. "Talk To Me' a capella came through, while Peter and his crew were walking around during the last of the set up. Fans were making mock row boats in the aisles during "Mercy Street, " which is what he did for a stage set on the UP tour. These were serious Gabriel fans with the history of past tours in their experience. The stadium was slowly filling up, but the event staff said it was not sold out. Monday nights are hard to get people out to the stadium shows, they remarked.
The performance at the TD Garden, Boston was recorded in full, and can be purchased for viewing at www.petergabriel.com .
Photo Credit: Tony Levin
Tony Levin's Facebook Page with tour photos and other updates.
Peter came out to the stage and announced there would be three parts to the show. 1. Unfinished, acoustics. 2. "The electric bit.". 3. The entire SO album, uninterrupted.
For the unfinished, acoustic piece, he commented, "The process of making something, is just as interesting as the finished product."
Peter Gabriel Touring Band:
The original band from the original SO tour was brought together for this anniversary. These members will have a (*) symbol next to their names.
*Peter Gabriel- Vocals, Piano
*Manu Katche' "from the sheik-est part of France"- Drums, Percussion
*David Sanchez- Accordion, Keys
*David Rhodes- Guitar
Jennie Abrahamson- Vocals
Linnea Olsson- Vocals
*And of course, Tony Levin- Bass
Peter Gabriel's "Back To Front" Tour Performance Review, TD Garden, Boston September 24, 2012
This is an unfinished new song played by Tony Levin and Peter Gabriel. It was a deeply soulful vocal from Gabriel with some traditional piano arrangements. A great opener, it helped the crowd settle in for what was to come, and was an honor to hear something new from Gabriel.
"Come Talk To Me"
From one of my favorite albums, US, the reaching out of the communicator, with stretched phone rings and cords, was tempered from the Secret World Live tour, to a bright rolling version with this Back To Front series. Although not as intense as the US recording, the Back To Front rendition yielded light and hope, a resolution of sorts.
Following Gabriel throughout his career, many fans know the US album was recorded during a very difficult time in his life. Written for his daughter, who later sang it with him during the UP tour, there is a sense of relief in the Back To Front performance, a joy in the passing of time with positive outcomes. The moment has broken out through the silence.
"Shock The Monkey"
The stage set showed a video of beginning life, "It began like this." The "evolution" speaks. A fan yells out "PETER!" and "Shock the Monkey" begins. This was a deep soul, almost jazz, version of the award winning block buster hit that swept the 1980's with song and video.
Mainstream fans know Peter Gabriel for this household iconic song, but cult fans find this just one chapter in his vast catalog. I'm a cult fan for sure. The backup vocalists did a great job of emitting "SHOCK" at the right times, with audience lead clapping, there was a standing ovation at the end.
This song is a masterpiece. This one track could be turned into a film. Peter Gabriel never turns away from real life content and his in depth exploration of the human condition brought him to explore the inner world of a political assassin. It is documented that Peter got the inspiration of the song by reading Arthur Bremmer's book, "An Assassins Diary" (www.songfacts.com). His lyrics tell the thoughts of the killer moment by moment, including the motives which are not hate or political issues, but just to be noticed, famous, timed to be remembered - on the evening news. "I don't really hate you, I don't care what you do, we were made for each other, me and you ... I want to be somebody, you are like that too ... if you don't get given you learn to take, and I will take you." My favorite part of this song is when Peter bellows, "And I let the bullet fly ...." On the recorded track, Peter's voice is the launched bullet and the ping tonations of the music afterwards project the object into mid-air.
When Peter Gabriel played "Family Snapshot" on the Back To Front Tour, Tony Levin commanded a red bass and brown cloak, while Peter played the scene from his piano. I watched him do this on the UP tour as well. The song remains powerful this way, and although Peter's vocal range did not release that historic bullet, the performance was powerful nonetheless, and the target was hit, straight on.
"Digging In The Dirt"
This 'electric bit' started off as just that. Floating lights gave the arena space an eerie effect. As in the rest of the US album, the power is given to the people and they seemed to follow the lights as if in a trance. The set beckoned Gabriel every time he jumped, it changed. Tony Levin, the master, had full control over the pace of things, while strobes and angular lights continued to bend the visuals. This gave me an idea for another article, IMPACT. The IMPACT of Peter Gabriel, but that is for another post.
"For each one of us, there is a secret world." - Peter Gabriel at the TD Garden, Boston. So, Back To Front Tour.
Imagine Tony Levin spinning with his brown cloak wrapped around him like a sage's dream-coat. Mandela lights are spinning and Peter joins him in a duet, the lights slow down into a pattern, then the moon tambourine comes out. The bass solo was so intense, it dominated as Levine hung low over the crowd from the stage. The Abrahamson's provided back-up, which added a lovely sound to the vocals.
"The Family And The Fishing Net"
"An interpretation of marriage" - Peter Gabriel at the TD Garden, Boston, So, Back To Front Tour.
With the lights pulsing like a raw heartbeat, this was all David Rhodes' guitar and Peter Gabriel's piano. Rhodes scratched out the artful notes that provided the content for the framed pictures that Peter painted in his vocals. It was fragmented and intense, "the body and the flesh" was delivered in such a way that the stadium was a bit off guard, as should be, after the depth of un-nerving that this song brings.
"No Self Control"
Photo credit: www.Bluebirdreviews.com
Glittering backgrounds and Peter at the piano set a fantasy mood as faces appeared and disappeared on the screen while Peter let out a progressive howl. Back into the Genesis and the days of 'melting'. Brilliant.
During the UP tour, Peter was riding a bicycle around the circular stage for this song of joy. The crowd leads the chant of the heartbeat, 'Boom Boom Boom.' Here in Boston on the Back to Front SO tour, the circular theme remained, however, Mr. Gabriel seemed to be a storyteller this go around. He motioned, acted out many of the lyrics with his hands. "Which connection I should 'cut' ... he made a hand chop with his arm, 'liberty she pirouettes' and he spun around ... He seemed to be more focused on the message of the song this tour.
This made sense to me, given that the song was written as a declaration of independence and remains so, now that he is taking a break from touring. There was a determination of assertion in Peter's statement, 'You can KEEP my things, they've come to take me home ..." Circles seem to be a constant in the presentation, Peter walked in circles, the band caught on and he was joined by Tony Levin and David Rhodes, circling, engaging the crowd, as they played their instruments. There was joy in the ending, as the trio skipped in circular formation with the crowd cheering, light as air, with all intentions, back to front - independent.
Bravo, Mr. Gabriel!
"Solsbury Hill" was the first single that Peter Gabriel released after his break from Genesis. It is named after an area in Bath, England, where Peter used to walk, or jog and legend has it that a temple was built there to honor Apollo, the god of light, music, and poetry. The 7/4 rhythm with the addition of instruments by verse makes this classic build to an enormous crescendo both in recordings and especially live. (Sources: Songfacts, Allmusic and Peter Gabriel.com)
"The Washing of The Water"
The stadium went black. Imagine just Peter at his piano, "so deep so wide, will you take me on your back for a ride ..." Tony Levin on the upright bass, with David Rhodes on guitar, accompained this amazing soul searching ballad. The plea for the river to heal starts the process of awareness, which puts the narrator in a position of strength already. Peter took his time to sing this properly, even when interrupted by cheers from the crowd. From the US album, beautiful.
Classic expectations were met with this hit number. "Red Rain" was beautifully represented with red flood lights and 'showers' of red and orange effects that really looked like red rain. The crowd went wild. The song escalated into a magnificent take on this familiar tune, by deepening the vocals and the guitar work was very astute.
Marching around with power and control, Peter lead everyone dancing to this inspiring classic. This hit is still as unique as it was in the 1980's. Making fists that slam together, people were actually doing 'the bump' in the audience! During the lyric, "...kick the habit, shed my skin ..." a guy took off his shirt and tied up his head in it. Fans were just happy and being themselves! The trio formation of Gabriel, Rhodes and Levin, had some Mo-Town looking steps going on, while the backup vocals an dual drummers kept the time very well.
"Don't Give Up"
Sounding just like the recording, the depth of the instrumentation in this was superb, with even more interest given the live percussion by Manu Katche'. The crowd generously accepted Jennie Abrahamson for Kate Bush's part of the duet. A blue background was the scene, as Peter stood while Jennie slowly approached and Peter walked away. This told the true story of quiet strength. Peter's pensiveness and tentative stance, had a layer of hope, because he was willing to be vulnerable and strong, and accepted the support of his counterpart, even though he did not collapse into it. "That river flowing" had Peter walk to the top of the stage, hit the high note, 'We're proud of who we are" sang Jennie. In the end they stood at the edge of the crowd, holding hands, which lead the crowd singing, "don't give up, don't give up, don't give up ..." There was a reggae vibe at the close and some soulful scat vocals. The standing ovation on this song was well deserved.
"Hear That Voice Again"
You never know what to expect at a Peter Gabriel concert with any tour. UP had him bouncing around in a big clear ball on stage, while New Blood showcased orchestral pieces of his famous songs. "Hear That Voice Again" started off with Gabriel sitting at his piano, while his voice echoed over the crowd, The audience was again, quiet. The intro to this upbeat song had a different impact presented as a piano performance. Then it built up and stayed at its steady pace. All musicians were busy focused on their instruments, Levine, face to face with his bass, Rhodes, cut the edges of the phrasing in guitar work, while Katche' made the high sticking look effortless. Peter nailed the high note in the song's peak.
"What I carry in my heart, brings us so close or so far apart ... only love can make love ..." - Song lyric from "Hear That Voice Again," Peter Gabriel.
"... all of the buildings, all of the cars, were once just a dream in somebody's head ... " - Song lyric from "Mercy Street," Peter Gabriel.
I was waiting to see what would be done with this song. I've seen it during the UP tour with a beautiful boat circling the stage. Gabriel took this deeper into the dream state by opening the song with an acapella piece and then laying on the floor. A set of huge cameras circled his head and he sung the rest of the song from this floor position. The cameras were programmed to scan his face and project it onto the video screens alongside the stage. The screens were a dizzying effect of black and white, like an old Twilight Zone clip and Peter's low groans and howls were perfect for this altered state depiction. This was ingenious and brought the masterpiece multi-instrumental toward the collective by taking it right out of any contact with reality. The audience were left to create their own reality. Brilliant.
"So much larger than life." - Song lyric, from "Big Time," Peter Gabriel.
Gabriel leaned sideways, got off the floor, drank a cup of water and moved on with the show. A fast running video with energy to spare gave the entire band a boost on this very popular number. The crowd were on their feet in an instant and it was joyous relief, highlighted with multi-colored lights, a straight shot of good 80's radio, the way that it should be. Peter found his way back to his piano and the tempo changes were fantastic.
"We Do What We're Told, Milgram's 37"
I was listening to the 1986 demo of this song before the show and the echo percussion stands out for me in the original rendition. Sharp guitar edges cut through the beat, and I was glad to have kept that in mind before I set out to see it live in Boston.
I felt the ground shake during the concert when this song was performed. Milgram's studies were chilling enough, and now to see them symbolized in song verse was intriguing, startling. This live version had a contemporary rock edge, thanks to David Rhodes. The whole band stood in a line like soldiers, singing monotone with one voice. Impact.
"Excellent Birds. This Is The Picture"
Written by Laurie Anderson and Peter Gabriel, this is a signature track for both of them, seeming to reflect their unique styles, but they have a lot in common. The use of percussion, creative sectional arrangements and mindful symbolism permeates.
As I said, core Gabriel fans were at the Boston show for the Back To Front tour. Once the initial beat started for this song, the crowd clapped and immediately rose. The band played in unison standing at the edge of the stage together, using choreographed steps, circle formations and marching in it's timeless rhythm. It was well done.
"In Your Eyes"
The song that rang throughout the 80's and is still so powerful today. This introduced Youssou N'Dour to the mainstream music scene and the world music projects that Peter Gabriel had been immersed in, became household talk. The iconic scene in "Say Anything" was captured on this very Back to Front Tour with the real John Cusack and Peter Gabriel exchanging boom boxes on stage. Read about that here: http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2012/10/john-cusack-cameos-at-peter-gabriel-25th-anniversa.html
The live performance of this was everything you'd expect in Gabriel's channel of this euphoric occasion. The crowd sang every word, pausing for Peter to sing the second lines. The inspirational uplifting of the crowd that happens at most shows when this song is played was exactly right. We were filled with the light, the heat, of this great music. Peter and the band lifted their arms, the lights followed the atmosphere upwards and the fans raised their hands to the sky as well. Jennie Abrahamson and Peter did the improv and the response was positive. She seemed to relax by this point in the show and gave it all she had. Peter closed this with his velvet voice, strong and reassuring.
"The resolution, of all the fruitless searches..." - Song lyric from, "In Your Eyes" Peter Gabriel.
"Surprise, Suprise ... We're Back!" The band said. "Thank you very much, we had a very good night tonight!" says Peter Gabriel. "We love you Peter!" shouted a fan.
"The Tower That Ate People"
Electricity filled the room and strobes shocked the crowd. This is the type of performance that is signature Gabriel, to take a song, and make it a theatre art form. He was in his element, as was the band. Prior live shows have shown Gabriel's face melting, running through a bubble, riding a bicycle, climbing a tower and being pulled into a telephone booth. This number had a lighted circular disc slowly fall from the ceiling with running lights to encapsulate Peter, and then a white tower like sheet spun down from it covering him completely. Music as modern art, this is Peter Gabriel.
Tell it like it is (on this land, we cast our hope)
Till there's no misunderstanding
You make up what you like (we make our home)
Man feed machine
Machine eat man
-Song lyric from 'The Tower That Ate People," Peter Gabriel.
This song is from the album OVO and was played at the Millenium Concert at the O2 in London, 2000. There is a set of discs and DVD's from this show, but only a limited edition was available in the UK for a short time. Standard editions are still widely available in all countries. To preview or purchase this remarkable album through Amazon, click here.
The stage went red and Gabriel spoke to the audience inspiring them 'all over the world' to "stand up for what you believe in." "We feel the screams of Steven Biko." Everyone in the audience stood as if in salute during this always moving tribute. "You can blow out a candle, but you can't blow out a fire. Once the flames begin to catch, the wind will blow it higher."
What strikes me about Peter Gabriel's music, is what should be an ingredient in all music. When he writes any song, he gives the notes, the tones, the words, space - to let the listeners connect with the message. Using percussions sometimes so sparingly, there is a powerful sense of movement through the crowd. Other songs like 'Shaking The Tree" "In Your Eyes" "Sanicinto" and others, are arranged with the thoughtfulness to allow the audience to connect with the underpinnings in their own way. People are truly moved to the core of what they feel from Peter Gabriel's music. It's quite remarkable if you think about how he reaches people with different styles of music, yet in a similar way. Our writer, Deb Hebert remarked just last week that Peter Gabriel always sings of "love, hope and humanity."