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Close Encounters with Peter Gabriel

"Over all these years, I've found it's a lot safer to get the applause at the beginning." Peter Gabriel there, cracking a joke as he pulls up a stool and explains what's going to happen.

The Back to Front gig, says Peter, is like a meal. There's the starters (a band rehearsal of sorts, with the house lights still on), the mains (the savoury electronic bit) and the dessert (Gabriel's seminal album, 1986's So, performed in its entirety). This is the last night of the tour, so we can take it that everyone on stage has this peculiar little set-up down to a tee.

Well, it's rarely, if ever, a good idea to leave the lights on, Peter, but at least that first set closes out with a blistering run-through of Family Snapshot, leaving behind Peter Gabriel: The Delicate Piano Balladeer (which, incidentally, suits him just fine) and seguing into the imaginative and innovative, musical art installation that most of us had expected.

Darkness sets in. The roadies, it would appear, are wearing hospital scrubs. A group of stage lads dressed like ninjas begin to stalk Peter with massive, seesaw lighting rigs. It's Close Encounters with Peter Gabriel, and it certainly is spectacular.

An authoritative leading man, Gabriel never lost his edge. Stick him next to masterful bassist Tony Levin and guitarist David Rhodes (seriously, this band is exceptional), and the trio perform a series of synchronised twirls, kicks and grooves - like an industrial group that suddenly replaced their gloomy repertoire with something a little…funkier.

Secret World brings the noise with some riff-heavy, prog-rock preening, whereas the timeless Solsbury Hill reminds us that Gabriel (64) always did enjoy playing the part of arty pop star.

CATCHY

Clearly, the Surrey music maker and former Genesis ringmaster has been looking after his greatest instrument, and there's a youthful exuberance to his delivery and vocals throughout.

Nothing has changed - he remains a gifted and enthralling melody man. Gabriel won't let anyone take over the ridiculously catchy Sledgehammer, because he doesn't need to.

On the gorgeous Don't Give Up, the superb Jennie Abrahamson stands in for Kate Bush, with Peter (literally) picking up his suitcase and keeping to the script. Like I said, it's all about the concept with this chap.

Eventually, he'll end up on his back, over a spiral pattern. And there are cameras everywhere; on the microphones, in the backing vocalists' hands, right under Levin's nose - everywhere. Granted, not every song is a winner (So isn't perfect, lads), and sometimes, it's all just a little too nightmarish and dystopian.

In the end, a massive slinky tower eats up Peter Gabriel (you can guess the tune). Indeed, Back to Front is a monstrous and hugely effective stage show. "Back by popular demand," declares Peter, as he and his band take a bow with their, er, backs to us. You wouldn't expect anything less. Smashing stuff.

© Herald

Last modified onTuesday, 08 December 2015 21:50

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