As has been mentioned before on here, I’m a bit of a fan of Peter Gabriel – not hardcore “all the way back to the 70s”, but I like far more of his stuff than I dislike, and I’ll usually go and see him live. Mind you, I’m gobsmacked that it’s now six years since I’d seen him live – although I did end up missing (OK, not going to) the concert a couple of years back at Blickling Hall in Norfolk.
Anyway, when I saw about tickets coming available for a concert at the O2, I was there. It was in promotion of the “Scratch My Back” album which hadn’t even been released at the time, but *shrug* I don’t worry about things like that.
The gig itself was always going to be slightly strange. Gabriel’s done away with the general band stuff, and instead gone with a total orchestra, stripping down the songs and then orchestrating them. It had been billed as being no support, an hour of the new album, an interval, then another session with older stuff. It didn’t work out quite like that – everything started late, there was then a short (three song) intro by Anna Lünd – who’s also doing a lot of the backing vocals in the rest of the show. At that point the lights went back up, an interval of about ten-fifteen minutes, and then into the Scratch My Back section of the show. A fifteen minute interval that stretched to nearly thirty, then back to the final “older stuff” section.
All that aside though, it was a really good gig. The visuals were really impressive, doing stuff I hadn’t seen before with multi-layered screens, and almost holographic at some points. The sound was fantastic, and the orchestra were stunning. Some of the songs were just fantastic – particularly his versions of Arcade Fire’s “My Body Is A Cage” and Magnetic Fields “Book of Love”. The entire album was done live, which is quite an achievement in itself.
The second section was more of the same, but orchestrated versions of older tracks, including the crowd favourites. There were a couple I wish he’d done as well, but I think that’s always the way when it’s a gig covering nearly forty years of music. But he played (among others) “Digging in the Dirt”, “Signal to Noise”, “Mercy Street”, “Darkness”. “In Your Eyes” and (of course) “Solsbury Hill”, which still managed to be as whimsical as ever.
I’d have loved to see Sledgehammer done in this gig, or Growing Up, but I guess they’d be hard to do in an orchestrated version.
All told, it was a pretty great gig – allbeit a very different one to most of the ones I see, and very different to the previous Peter Gabriel concerts. But still, fantastic to see.