tue 22/10/2019

Peter Gabriel, 02 Arena | reviews, news & interviews

Peter Gabriel, 02 Arena

Peter Gabriel, 02 Arena

A hi-tech but overly precise revisitation of his legendary 1986 album 'So'

Peter Gabriel: WOMAD for it

Walking into London’s cavernous O2 Arena for Peter Gabriel’s So 25 show last night felt like stumbling onto the set of some David Lean epic: Peter of Surrey, if you will. With a number of imposing lighting and camera rigs framing the already roomy stage, the show’s chroniclers sat perched perilously in suspended chairs with their equipment focused on the band setting up before us.

If it was not already clear, last night’s concert was filmed for posterity, or more likely a DVD. To explain the situation the film’s director appeared onstage to guide the audience through the night’s proceedings. By the time Gabriel came on it was already clear that there was not going to be much room for improvisation.

It seemed as if we were witnessing the creation of the DVD, rather than witnessing the show

In fact, this particular tour’s itinerary has not deviated since the tour began over a year ago. The show is split into three disparate parts, which Gabriel very aptly compared to a three-course meal. The starter, a sombre and intimate (well, as intimate as you can be in front of 10,000 people) acoustic set, followed by the meat and potatoes of his darker material and finally, stuffed, our palates were cleansed by a full rendition of his legendary So album.

Spanning Gabriel’s quite considerable oeuvre is no mean feat, but if anyone could pull it off it would be his backing band. Made up of the majority of the original 1987 So line-up, the formidable combination of bassist Tony Levin, drummer Manu Katche and guitarist David Rhodes were accompanied by the incredible vocal stylings of Jenny Abrahamson, who melted hearts with her performance of the classic “Don’t Give Up”. The whole band set the O2 on fire with their masterful renditions of legendary hits “Red Rain”, “No Self Control” and of course, the ubiquitous “Sledgehammer”.

It sounded fantastic. The best way to master anything is practice, and this band has had more than enough time for that, but at what cost? The pyrotechnics, hologram video screens and lighting rigs were all very impressive, but you got the feeling that everything was planned with military precision, allowing little in the way of spontaneity. It seemed as if we were witnessing the creation of the DVD, rather than witnessing the show.

Perhaps in an effort to counter this, Gabriel’s first song was a new one. But it fell some way short of the mark, and it appeared to be more of an attempt to take the show out of the realms of the retrospective and to make the point that he is still in the business of creating, as opposed to reminiscing. All in all, this was an impressive performance from one of the world’s most innovative and talented artists, but let us hope that next time he’ll focus more on the music, rather than attempting to create some kind of visual opus. 

Spanning Gabriel’s quite considerable oeuvre is no mean feat, but if anyone could pull it off it would be his formidable backing band


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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