Peter Gabriel, supported by Jennie Abrahamson & Linnea Olsson – The AECC, Aberdeen – 08/12/14
‘Tonight will be a bit like a three course meal…’
Two years into a world-wide tour, with just two more shows to go, Peter Gabriel came on stage to rousing applause. ‘It’s great to get so much applause before actually playing anything‘ he said. ‘Makes me want to go for it.’
Sitting at a grand piano, he began to outline the structure of the show. ‘The first section is the aperitif, the starter. We play with the house lights up, like a rehearsal session.’ The songs were more acoustic in nature, the opener so new it was unfinished and had no words, adding that his wife told him to mention that or ‘they’ll think you’ve forgotten the words.’ He introduced the band members as each arrived – adding one or two for each of the first three songs until the full line-up was all present and correct.
This was the same line up of ‘old friends’ that toured with him for the ‘So’ tour back in 1987. There were two ‘new friends’ too – the backing vocalists who also provided support for the night, Jennie Abrahamson and Linnea Olsson. Peter himself still has that oh so distinctive voice everyone of a certain age will remember – even though at first glance he is totally unrecognisable to that man we remember, all those years ago. He may be a little worn around the edges (aren’t we all) but he still had everything we were looking for.
The second section was the main course part of the meal picking out songs from across his back catalogue and played by the full band, where, amongst others, ‘Solsbury Hill’ got the feet tapping along. For this section the colour theme was mainly black and white, with high contrast white lighting and the figures and stage props in black.
The colours returned for the dessert course – the album ‘So’ played top to bottom. Red Rain kicked that section off, the lighting matching the title of the song. The audience, of course, erupted when the first notes of ‘Sledgehammer’ were played – with people standing to dance. ‘Big Time’ was another thumper following on like a bomb on from the silence that fell after ‘Mercy Street’ ended.
It was a very intimate show, considering the size of the venue. Microphones had cameras attached or were hand-held for up front, no holds barred, footage of the singers on the two large size screens. Cameras on poles were used to provide close-up shots of fingers on guitar strings and a camera attached to a cymbal pole on the drum-kit shook with the force of the drummer as he leaned in to beat time.
It was also at times almost surreal, strange video effects, such as slow motion blurring on top of real-time images on the side screens, digitising the figures of the band on the backdrop, themed lighting to match the songs.
Most surreal of all were the huge ‘angle-poise lamp like’ boom lights (with cameras) wheeled about the stage, by masked men in black. They provided a futuristic effect, making me think of Martian machinery from War of the Worlds – lined up along the front of the stage, emitting vertical pillars of light (prison bars maybe) for ‘We Do What We’re Told’ – almost like you might expect to see at a Pink Floyd ‘The Wall’ show – or following Peter around the stage like stalking animals and retreating as he fought back.
‘Mercy Street’ found him laid on his back in a giant bullseye surrounded by the UV emitting boom lights, writhing and curling into the foetal position as he sang. During this we watched him on the large screens – it was like looking down into a hole at a poor wretch below.
Emotional too, with an incredibly moving rendition of ‘Don’t Give Up’, Jennie taking the female vocal part – she has the vocal range and delivery that proved a worthy stand-in for Kate Bush and in a nod to the video, they embraced at the end of the song. I have to say though, I had to suppress a small smile during the female solo towards the end when Peter Gabriel picked up a suitcase and walked across the back of the stage – as it brought Eric Morecambe, in flat cap and brown raincoat to mind (I have a weird sense of humour though).
The choreography was obviously well rehearsed, the three-man (PG, DR & TL) line-ups and mini circle pit on stage were amusing – they seemed to be having a great time up there – all playing together again, skipping about.
The video work was incredible – what we saw on the side screens could be packaged up just as it was and released – kudos to the guys with the cameras up there and to those we didn’t see who converted the live footage into what we saw on the night.
There was some seriously dark subject matter on show tonight – even while being entertained the mind was busy assimilating and cogitating. Always good to come away from a show buzzing – in mind and body.
The touring line-up is:
Lead vocals and Piano: Peter Gabriel
Guitar and vocals: David Rhodes
Bass, keyboard, and vocals: Tony Levin
Keyboard: David Sancious
Drums: Manu Katché
Vocals (and support): Jennie Abrahamson and Linnea Olsson
Words and pictures by Dark Secret and Still Burning.
Peter Gabriel Website