Concert Review: Peter Gabriel plays Toronto – Air Canada Centre

Posted: 05/26/2013 in Uncategorized

peteI have been a fan of Peter Gabriel since his Genesis days and continue to be to this day. My attendance at his TO concert was a 15th wedding anniversary gift from my wife and I to ourselves. First and foremost, Peter Gabriel is a genius. This is fact; unquestionable fact. Gabriel is a human rights activist, in 2006 receiving the Man of Peace award from the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, and in 2008, TIME magazine named Gabriel one of the 100 most influential people in the world.[6] Gabriel was also awarded the Polar Music Prize in 2009, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Genesis in 2010. (Wikipedia) His work is groundbreaking; from album #1 (non-titled) to present day “Scratch My Back”, a brilliant project whereby he performs songs from artists he admires, which is to be followed up by these artists performing his songs. I am of the mind that the return effort will take some time, which he alluded to in his TO performance indicating that getting all the artists lined up with their schedules to complete this project is a little like “herding cats”. Nonetheless, his recording was fantastic.

This concert titled “Back to Front” celebrated the 25th anniversary of his most successful effort, “So”. The concert plays out in two movements, the first part being a collection of hits, old and newer; the second a complete live rendition of the “So” album. I have waited over 30 years to see this man and he did not disappoint. The fact that he was accompanied by the original band with which he recorded “So” was simply icing on the cake. His long time collaborator and bassist par-excellence Tony Levin who has played with him for well over 4 decades simply makes Gabriel better. Their friendship and talent creates a powerful musical symbiosis which makes for fantastic performances.

Peter Gabriel now in his 60s still sings beautifully. Not to sound trite, but he has not lost a step. He begins the concert with a new “Unfinished” tune, “O But” which has a jazzy, rhapsodic feel, and then launches into “Come Talk to Me” off his “Us” album, the eloquent, elegant follow up to the epic “So”. By song 3, “Shock the Monkey”, the audience is well primed. When he introduces “Family Snapshop”, possibly my favorite of his songs, my concert experience is perfect. The song inspired by a journal of a possible assassin, found under the George Washington Bridge, is dark in tone, powerful and builds to a vocal and psychological crescendo. Gabriel then dives into “Digging in the Dirt” and “Secret World”, again from “Us”, beautifully sung with powerful backing by a band as tight today as it was 25 years ago. He ends part 1 with the classic ode of his departure from Genesis, “Solsbury Hill”…no matter how many times he performs this hit, it sounds fresh and the audience participation was unquestionable. Of note is the female back up of Jenny Abrahamson, a young Swedish performer who Gabriel allowed to shine with a quick 3 song intro prior to the main event. Her voice is clear, powerful and resonant, qualities essential to accompanying Gabriel when doing the epic duet of “Don’t Give Up”. The Kate Bush/Peter Gabriel original can never be surpassed, but if one is going to do it live, one had best have the pipes for it. Abrahamson does, thankfully. Her voice has shades of Alison Krauss’s soprano style to nicely contrast Gabriel’s soaring vocals.

Enter part 2, the live recreation of “So”. Starting with “Red Rain” and “Sledgehammer” (MTV’s most played video of all time), Gabriel delivers a solid vocal performance. It is with “Don’t Give Up” that he attains the falsetto heights he is known for, Abrahamson’s back up and solo parts are strong and nicely accentuate Gabriel’s more soulful tones. The song is one of encouragement, a couple working through hard times and this is mirrored very much with her maintaining a close circle as she sings with him, even on occasion touching his shoulder as a couple would when expressing tenderness and love. This is beautifully rendered and is most certainly one of the night’s highlights. “Mercy Street” is peformed with strong harmonies of Abrahamson and fellow band members. “We Do What we’re Told (Milgram’s 37th)” and “This is the Picture: Excellent Birds”, are performed with crisp intensity as these are fairly uncoventional sounding songs and more intended for studio than live performance in my estimation. They are nonetheless performed with technical precision. The encore features “The Tower That Ate People” from “OVO”, The Millennium Dome soundtrack show which was a multimedia, Cirque du Soleil style show created specifically for the year 2000 in the Millennium Dome in London, easily one of PG’s more ostentatious projects. This is a treat for the staunchest of Gabriel fans. He ends superbly with “Biko”, very much the epitome of who he is, a humanitarian speaking out against social injustice, in this case apartheid. The song as with the entire show is superb and leaves a lasting resonance long after the concert’s end.

As an additional treat, fans in attendance were given a link in which they could order the evening’s performance, in clear, digitally mastered sound at a very reasonable cost. In so doing, one gets a personalized stamp of the evening’s performance and can revisit the evening at will. The programs sold at the invite fans to membership into the “Society of Sound” which allows fans access to two albums a month in high quality, lossless downloads curated by Peter Gabriel, Real World Studios and the London Symphony Orchestra and all kinds of interesting tech stuff. Well worth my 30 year wait.

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