Peter Gabriel's Back To Front Tour, which begins Sunday, may be the last we see of him for awhile. Gabriel tells Billboard that "there is new music" he's working on, but it will have to wait for a hiatus he's planning after the tour ends in mid-October.
"I'm going to take a sabbatical after the tour with my family and travel around the world," Gabriel says, "visiting some of the people we know on the music world, the human rights world, the science community, as well as a bit of straightforward tourism. It's something I've been intending to do for the last 12 years, so I'm really looking forward to that."
But Gabriel does hope to leave fans with some memories by uncharacteristically delving into his past and celebrating his multi-platinum 1986 album "So." He'll be performing the chart-topping set in its entirety on the tour, with the original band from the original tour -- bassist Tony Levin, guitarist David Rhodes, drummer Manu Kache and keyboardist David Sancious -- while a 25th anniversary edition of the album comes out in three configurations on Oct. 23, including demos and a Martin Scorsese-produced film of a 1987 performance in Athens, Greece. Of course, it's actually the album's 26th anniversary this year, but Gabriel says he sacrificed timeliness for quality.
"The box set...involved a fair bit of organizing and pulling things together," he says. "That was much harder work than I anticipated, but fun. We bit off a bit more than we could chew within the correct time frame, so we now are running a little behind our 25th anniversary. But nonetheless I think we have a good box there."
Gabriel -- whose most recent projects were the 2010 covers set "Scratch My Back" and the "New Blood" orchestral revisions of his songs -- says he's particularly excited about letting fans hear the "So DNA" disc, which includes the demos in the same sequence as the finished album.
"I'd forgotten quite a lot of that, and how the songs evolved," Gabriel notes. "On 'That Voice Again,' for instance, there was a whole other lyric I'd sort of pushed into the back of my mind. There's a lot of things like that...which really give people some insight into how these songs developed and sometimes changed quite a bit as we went along."
The concerts during the tour -- which kicks off Sept. 16 in Quebec City -- will also recreate the staging and visuals used during the original "So" trek, but Gabriel also expects to tweak and modernize things a bit.
"Nothing ever stays the same, so even when you try to recapture a moment you put today's time print on it," he explains. "I'm trying not to use pre-recorded video material this time, just as a starting point -- though I may retreat from that position. But we're trying to see if we can generate all the video content from what we're doing live. That's the aim, at least."
Gabriel acknowledges that he initially resisted celebrating "So" in this way; "I never really considered a retro tour like this before," he says. But after seeing Brian Wilson perform the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" in its entirety, he reconsidered.
"There were always a couple of songs which for one reason or another I decided not to be playing," Gabriel says. "And we were getting some good offers, so I thought it could be quite fun to do this and try to get the band together again. It's been quite an undertaking, but I think it's going to be very enjoyable."
© Billboard, by Gary Graff