“Playing Jeux Sans Frontieres” - Peter Gabriel in concert at the Palais Omnisports de Bercy, Paris on Friday 5th June and Saturday 6th June 1987. Review by Alan Hewitt. Photographs by Guido Truffer.
Well, having already experienced a superb performance by Genesis here on 2nd June, I was really excited at the prospect of seeing another of my favourite artists here. The Omnisports itself is a very strange building with bits of it jutting out at weird angles. Inside however, it is a perfect example of the excellent purpose built venues which are so common in Europe, holding over 12,000 people. Not the biggest of concert venues but big enough to generate the kind of magic which makes a Gabriel concert a total event.
We arrive in Paris on the morning of 5th and after refreshing ourselves, we trekked around the city and were lucky enough to find a store selling tickets for the gig that night so decided to indulge ourselves in two gigs. The rest of the day passed in a haze of anticipation and it was with impatience that we joined the queue outside the hall. After what seemed like an eternity we were allowed in and after buying the obligatory programme and t shirt etc, we took our seats. Shortly after 8pm the fun began when Peter took the stage to introduce his support act; Youssou N’Dour and Les Super Etoiles de Dakar who drew on a wealth of talent to perform a half hour set that was tight, rhythmic and highly entertaining.
Tension mounted as we waited for Gabriel to hit the stage and our patience was rewarded when just before 9pm the band emerged top the strains of a track from Birdy which in turn led to the urgency of San Jacinto which Gabriel holding his line of inspiration in the form of a beam of reflected light from one of the lighting gantries. Then came the first of the new tracks; Red Rain which saw an admirable display from the new lighting show, now all vari-lite which swung from side to side.
The next number was introduced as “un chanson du jalousie” or Shock The Monkey which saw the usual antics from Gabriel, Levin and Rhodes. The next three numbers all came from Peter’s third album - Family Snapshot, Intruder and Games Without Frontiers, all of which were performed with typical Gabrielesque arrangements which were either an attempt to cover up some mistakes or a genuine re-arrangement of lyrics with the now familiar “fuck up” at the beginning of Family Snapshot.
Games Without Frontiers came across as a very jazzy track and there was some great bass work from Levin. There followed the Parisian version of “audition night” or This Is The Picture in a one- sided contest which Peter won hands down because he had “achete tous les juges” which was indeed, true because by now the audience were eating out of his hand. Other classic performances came with the renditions of No Self Control and Mercy Street which is destined to become a standard. The lighting effects on these two tracks have to be seen to be appreciated. The new movable gantries with their vari-lites attacked Gabriel and looked like the Martian space machines from Wells’ War Of The Worlds and added an extra dimension of drama to an already dramatic set.
Big Time brought a little light relief as the band launched into this highly danceable number which had the entire crowd on its feet and skanking in the aisles. The dancing continued with another polished performance, this time of the old favourite; Solsbury Hill and then the moment the crowd had waited for as Gabriel led us through the obscurantism of Lay Your Hands On Me with the inevitable “dive” into the audience driving everyone into a frenzy.
The tone was lowered right down for the next track as Peter was spotlit solo to perform a shortened version of Here Comes The Flood. The audience were given no time to recover though, for the next track up was the toe-tapping Sledgehammer which had everyone bopping again and really enjoying themselves, even for a usually reserved continental audience. There then came the superb ballad with all its rich social commentary and a message with a meaning for us all - Don’t Give Up. After which the group left the stage to rapturous applause from the audience who waited with a fierce anticipation for the obligatory encores.
They were not long in coming with the heart rending beauty of In Your Eyes featuring a superb vocal combination from Youssou N’Dour and the rest of his band who had been giving sterling backing to the talents of Gabriel, Rhodes, Katche, Sancious and Levin. Everyone was by now straining for Gabriel to unleash the raw power of Biko. He didn’t let us down and it was with tears in my eyes that we watched the band leave the stage to the thunderous beat of Manu Katche at the drums until he too, left the stage with the audience singing the vocal refrain until it felt like the roof was going to go into orbit.
The floodlights came up on a mass of raised arms and voices as we gave vent to our feelings and we left the auditorium high on the emotion and drama of the evening and elated by the knowledge that we had another night of pure genius to come and the UK tour after that - what a prospect that was!