A while ago I posted a couple of blogs about my excitement over Peter Gabriel’s announcements that included the news he was going to do a limited tour of North America to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the tour he did for the album, “So”.
The tour, called, “So: Back to Front”, features the band as it was back in 1987, with the addition of two female singers – one of which sings the Kate Bush part in “Don’t Give Up”. The show is broken up into three parts: A brief acoustic set starting with a new, unfinished song and then a few favorites stripped down into shiny new pieces of greatness, including a very funky Shock the Monkey and Family Snapshot. Then an electric set with songs from different parts of his career, especially some lessor heard live songs like Digging in the Dirt, Humdrum and No Self Control.
Then part three was the entirety of “So”, played in the order it was on the remastered version. This was a rather convenient choice as this version ends with In Your Eyes versus the nutty, This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds) which would have made for a far less dramatic way to end a show. In fact, if there was anything odd about the show was the fact that the “hits” from So are largely contained in the first half of the record. And while I love the work in its entirety the 2nd half of this part of the show certainly was a little bit of a mix of excitement and let down. Red Rain, Don’t Give Up and That Voice Again are songs I came to hear, and I was excited to hear Excellent Birds and We Do as We’re Told performed live – but they are more like performance art and not pop songs that make you want to sing along and jab the person next to you with excitement. So once the first half the album was done, the rest simply was never going to live up to it.
I should note that I didn’t see the original show in 1987. I had just left for college and the show wasn’t going anywhere near Lubbock, TX. The idea that I could finally live that experience 25 years later was compelling. The 1993 Secret World Live show, that I did see in Dallas, remains probably the best concert I’ve ever been to. It’s mix of music and stage production was something I’ve never seen repeated. If you’ve never seen it, a nice recording of it can now be had on bluray. I chose to see this show in Vegas over Red Rocks or the Hollywood Bowl simply because I didn’t want it spoiled by bad weather. And while the venue in Vegas was surprisingly small and nice, it turns out that the following night in LA John Cusack rolled out onstage in a long trench coat, holding a boom box and handed it to Peter who then thrust it overhead. It would have been a great moment to see in person. (Here’s the video of that happening!)
The tickets I bought allowed me access to the sound check earlier in the day. After all the shows I’ve been to, I realized while sitting there I’d not ever been to a sound check. This was a nice, mellow experience and we got to hear previews of songs we would hear that night and also “Games Without Frontiers” being prepared for possible insertion into the set list of later shows. Seeing the band, Peter and the crew all working without the pressure of the actual show was interesting and very relaxed.
That night the show started, went in the order I mentioned above and pretty much without hitch. Key phrase being, “pretty much”. The evening was another reason why attending live shows, or even going to a movie, has become an exercise in frustration of human rudeness. Next to me was a woman in her 50’s who spent the show shopping, texting, emailing and setting calendar events on her iPad. Not her iPhone, her giant-ass iPad. And yes, she even took videos with the damned thing several times throughout the show. Behind me was a middle aged couple who decided a narrative (and not one given in hushed voices into each other’s ears) was on order. And topping it off is the guy two rows behind us that didn’t understand that we came to hear Peter sign the hits, and not his out of key melon. You can hear this moron’s signing in the video I’ve posted below. (I’m willing to concede that the above are all no big deal and I just might have turned into an old buzz kill)
As a rule I am not a big fan of shooting pictures or video during concerts. First, generally I’m way to far back to produce an image of any quality and second, I’m there to see a show – not document it. But because I knew I would be writing a post, and because I was in the 3rd row, I decided to shoot a few brief moments of a couple of songs and some pics. I was going to video all of Red Rain, but the singing knucklehead heard in the video helped me make the quick decision to stop shooting after only a few seconds. What I do want you to see are the very cool Vari-Lights mounted in threes to the manually operated weighted cranes. There were five of these sitting on a track that surround the performers in a semi-circle and run by crew in black jumpsuits and odd fencing headgear. It was a fantastic and simple choice of effects that was used in very creative ways for each song.
Certainly Peter was paid a fine amount to do the tour and made it easier to justify for a guy who normally doesn’t live in his musical past. That said, he looks to be having fun, his voice is in amazingly good shape, he gives great effort for a man in his 60’s and I’ll be damned if there isn’t a fair amount of choreography included. It only took 25 years for me to see this show and it was a nice turn back of the clock.
Everyone has, or will have, an artist or band that they would travel to see one more time. And while this was the fourth time to see him perform it was the one show I’d missed that I really had wanted to see. Sometimes waiting pays off.