It is 51 years since Peter Gabriel elevated Genesis from a burgeoning cult band to the stuff of music press covers by unexpectedly taking the stage at a Dublin gig clad in his spouse’s Ossie Clarke costume and a fox’s head. It was a very long time in the past – “when dinosaurs roamed the earth and me and Tony each had hair,” as he places it tonight, casting a look within the course of bassist Tony Levin’s shining pate – however clearly a lesson from that night caught with him. When you’ve acquired a troublesome promote in your palms – and tough 22-minute songs performed by reticent public schoolboys had been by no means prone to elbow Bowie and Marc Bolan from the entrance pages in 1972 – it helps to decorate it up.
So it’s with Gabriel’s present tour. It’s not a lot that the present is lengthy, though the 2 units prime out at greater than two hours. It’s that half of the 20 songs he performs are new, the contents of his first album of contemporary materials in 21 years, i/o, which can or could not come out on the finish of this 12 months. A few of them have trickled out on-line – Gabriel has been releasing a brand new tune each full moon – however half of them haven’t.
It’s a dangerous enterprise – in 2023, enviornment gigs by rock stars of Gabriel’s classic are likely to lean on the best hits, not stuff nobody within the viewers has heard earlier than – however Gabriel has kind right here. A decade in the past, he opened reveals on his world tour by enjoying a brand new tune he hadn’t really completed writing, with the home lights up. Tonight, he frames the brand new materials in elaborate staging – screens of varied sizes and styles rise and fall, one sequence options Gabriel and his backing band performing seated round a camp fireplace, one other has him performing behind an unlimited, relatively prophylactic-looking size of clear plastic that all of a sudden and repeatedly turns opaque, casting the singer in silhouette, or features as a type of see-through cinema display screen, overlaying him with projections – and tees up the songs with prolonged explanations, delivered in halting French to the Parisian crowd. So far as a non-francophone can collect, one tune may be about AI, one other could have one thing to do with meteorites.
He intersperses them with the Peter Gabriel songs everybody is aware of. The set is mild on deep dives and early materials: solely an encore of Biko and the closing Solsbury Hill, which nonetheless appears like the primary heat day of an English spring almost 5 a long time on, survive from his preliminary brace of eponymous albums. It’s heavy on the singles from 1986’s 6m-selling So. Sledgehammer has the 73-year-old busting some surprisingly boyband-ish dance strikes – it’s unclear whether or not he’s doing this with a raised eyebrow or just misplaced within the music and the tune’s famously lubricious tone – whereas an authentically shifting model of Don’t Give Up options the night time’s most straightforward but placing little bit of theatre: whereas vocalist Ayanna Witter-Johnson sings the choruses initially carried out by Kate Bush, Gabriel sits slumped on the drum riser, head bowed, as if their determined pleading isn’t getting via to him.
In actual fact, the tracks from So don’t appear to be there merely as an insurance coverage coverage. Their sound appears to enrich that of Gabriel’s synth-heavy new materials, which, if it’s noticeably extra serpentine than Pink Rain or Large Time, can be much less dense and extra direct than the contents of 2002’s Up. i/o finds him ruminating on the straightforward pleasures of strolling a canine and connecting with nature; 4 Sorts of Horses is a surprisingly light imaginative and prescient of environmental apocalypse. A whole lot of it feels haunted by mortality, not least the attractive And Nonetheless, which displays movingly on Gabriel’s relationship along with his mom, who died in 2016.
Furthermore, the brand new materials seems to be going over properly with the viewers. Definitely, there’s no noticeable stampede for the bathrooms and the bar when a hitherto-unknown tune seems. Within the stalls, one excitable fan reacts to the songs’ climaxes by punching the air in triumph, center fingers raised, as if he’s watching Limp Bizkit. It’s a peculiar response to Peter Gabriel singing about environmental disaster, or his late mum, or certainly strolling his canine, but when nothing else, it feels proof that the gamble his new tour represents – “une expérience stay atypique” as Gabriel places it throughout certainly one of his halting speeches – is paying off.