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Friday, 5 December 2014

The View From The Back Of The Room: Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel Motorpoint Cardiff

The Prog legend Peter Gabriel graced us with his presence on this tour that celebrated his breakthrough solo album So. To do this he was playing the album in it's entirety along with other tracks from his storied career. As we arrived at the Motorpoint myself, my brother and my father (A die hard Genesis/Gabriel/Collins fan) took or seats and waited for the show to begin; the irony of my situation wasn't lost on me that that the previous night I'd been watching heavy metal in smaller sweatier venue and would be doing so again the following night at Mastodon, this was in stark contrast to the large airy venue full of CEO's, Dentists and the upper middle class of a Gabriel audience.

The man himself came on to the stage and introduced the support act, this was comprised of the two female members of his band, Jennie Abrahamson on glockenspiel and haunting vocals and Linnea Olsson on cello and richer vocals, they played a laid back mix of their own songs which were beautiful lulling the audience into their world of haunting, ethereal music with intense musicianship from both. A short sweet set but one that was a nice interlude before the main event and after a short change around it was time for the main event.

Gabriel once again came out and introduced the band, Abrahamson on vocals and percussion, Olsson on vocals and cello, Manu Katche on drums, David Sancious on keys/accordion with the band being rounded out by his long term collaborators Tony Levin on bass and David Rhodes on guitar, Gabriel himself took on the role of pianist moving between that and his Fairlight synthesiser. We were told that the set would be in three parts, the first would be acoustic, the second part electric and experimental and then the final part would be So in it's entirety. Bravely the set started with a new composition called What Lies Ahead, which was so new that it didn't have any lyrics and it saw Gabriel mumbling for the most part as he played, working the occasional word in to a song that could be very very good when finished. Straight into Come Talk To Me which worked well in acoustic form as did Shock The Monkey which at the slower pace showed how good the lyrics in this song are. A rapturous applause and while looking at the crowd I noticed that the house lights were still on but all would become clear as the Gabriel crooned "The Streets Alive With Camera Crews" which beckoned Family Snapshot and as the key changed happened the lights shut down and the giant screens turned to monochrome. As the song moved on the lighting booms at the back of the stage also stirred rising above the stage like something out of War Of The Worlds, more latter period stuff with the industrial chug of Digging In The Dirt which was accompanied by some superb visuals and showed of Rhodes' guitar and Levins bass to the full, we were still in Us territory with Secret World which again was reworked slightly to make it a heavier prospect and saw Gabriel almost snarling in parts. Gabriels vocals throughout were amazing he can still hit the notes (although used the instrumental parts to recover his voice because of his previous tour halting illness). He can also still move like a man half his age with moves galore on No Self Control which became very dark as Gabriel was stalked by the lighting booms as if they were a nemesis, this accompanied with the video made for some fantastic audio visual performances, the light came on Solsbury Hill's upbeat mandolin and hints to the yellow brick road at the finale of the song with Gabriel, Levin and Rhodes following the spiral stage to it's conclusion and the main set ended with Why Don't You Show Yourself. With the experimental part finished it was time for, as Gabriel put it, our dessert. I personally enjoyed the heavier, darker arrangements of the songs but my father had some reservations about them (he is a traditionalist). Still now it was time for So in it's entirety.

As Katche started with the liquid percussion of Red Rain I personally squeaked a little as it one of my favourite songs ever and this was a perfect rendition of the emotive and explosive song which kicked off the album brilliantly and was immediately followed by the number one single Sledgehammer which did get the biggest reception of the night and is still a brilliantly funky song with it's strutting beat. Because I (and the rest of the crowd) knew the album so well we knew what was coming next with Levin's bass leading the way on the plaintive Don't Give Up which still brings a tear to the eye, especially when Abrahamson sang the Kate Bush part perfectly and received a standing ovation for doing so, directly into the more upbeat That Voice Again before the mood once again turned to the downbeat on Mercy Street which just featured Gabriel laying on the stage filmed from a ceiling based camera and surrounded by the lighting booms as he writhed while singing, he is indeed ever the showman and he bounded to his feet for the fame aping, horn fuelled Big Time which was slightly adapted and saw Gabriel singing slightly out of time with the song. The shade once again followed the light with We Do What We're Told (Milligram's 37) which took an Orwellian turn with it's fly on the wall CCTV style camera work, This Is The Picture once again added the weird dimension with both Abrahamson and Olsson handling the Laurie Anderson parts and the album set ended with the world music influenced In Your Eyes which came as an upbeat ending to the album set and got everyone's hands held high!

A break a rest and they came back on for the techno drum looped, industrial sound scape of The Tower That Ate People which was very visual with an alien orb descending from the ceiling and engulfing Gabriel as he moved inside as the song sped up towards it's climax. The final song was the still affecting Biko on which Gabriel preached against non-violence and injustice world wide, the song pulsed as Gabriel sang his heart out before leaving the crowd to chant, as he reeled off the injustices affecting the world today. As the crowd chanted the band left the stage one by one leaving Katche to just drive the song with his drums until its eventual end. That was it the lights when up the stage started coming down and we filed out in awe of what had just happened a perfect two hour set that oldies would love and even newbies would find something in. He is a master showman and one of the most unique vocalists in music. Simply staggering 10/10             

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