The Peter Gabriel Story Part Six - Growing Pains 1995 - 07 - Narrated by Alan Hewitt. Memorabilia: TWR Archive. Photographs by Ted Sayers.
It has been a long time, hasn’t it? Indeed it has been quite a while since we focused on Peter’s career and so, dear reader, allow me to narrate the next chapter in the story…
We last saw Peter concluding the massive Up tour with a gig as part of the 25th anniversary celebrations of the original Woodstock Festival which took place at Saugerties in New York State on 14th August 1994. Peter then effectively retired from public view again as he sought new ideas and inspirations for his next project.
One projects which he had spoken of previously was given more serious consideration during this hiatus and that was the idea of a Real World Theme Park replete with sensory rides and all the trappings of Peter’s over fertile imagination. Enquiries as to the purchase of a site had been going on for years and one in Madrid was rumoured to have been purchased but nothing has yet come of this product of Peter’s over fertile imagination.
Another project however, was to occupy some considerable amount of Peter’s time and efforts. By 1996, the time was fast approaching for the celebration of the coming Millennium and the creation of the Millennium Dome on a patch of disused dockland overlooking Greenwich in London - itself a controversial decision at the time, was to prove the catalyst for Peter’s next sonic adventure as he was commissioned to create a show which was to be staged within the cavernous new Dome.
Before that could be considered however, Peter had to indulge some looking backwards as it was announced in the autumn of 1997 that Genesis were releasing their first retrospective box set. Titled, Genesis Archive 1967 -75 this set spanned the entire period of Peter’s involvement in the band spread over four CDs with two given over entirely to a live recording of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway from the famous gig at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in January 1975. Coupling that with other live recordings and studio material going back as far as 1967 this set was just what Genesis fans had been clamouring for for years. A photoshoot and series of interviews saw Peter reunited with his former bandmates at Heathrow Airport in May 1998 and the press gave the set plenty of fulsome coverage. The set itself, released by Virgin Records on 6th June 1998 was extremely successful and reached the number 35 spot in the UK charts. With only 50,000 copies of the set worldwide this was one item no self respecting Genesis fan was going to want to be without! However, fans were soon surprised to learn that not everything was quite as advertised, the live recordings, especially The Lamb,… were not quite as “live” as advertised, vocals, keyboards and guitar were, in places retouched by producer Nick Davis, whose explanation for doing so can be read in an earlier edition of TWR.
A subsequent reunion dinner was also held at which the various band members plus several associates were present and it was at this gathering that Tony Banks is reputed to have proposed the following toast: “Well, we managed to sack all of you!” Typical Tony really, eh? A documentary was also produced by VH1 for their Behind The Music series. Ironically, this was narrated by Genesis’s latest singer; Ray Wilson. One track which drove the rumour mill into overdrive was the re-recorded version of Carpet Crawlers, which initially at least, had been agree to as a sort of finale to the first box set nicely wrapping up everything. However, things were to take a different turn for this version of the song and it was retained and eventually (and rather cynically in my view) it was used as the sweetener for fans who otherwise had all of the contents of the 2000 release: Turn It On Again ; The Hits. The single was released as a promotional item here in the UK.
1998 also saw another of Peter’s projects supporting Human Rights. 1998 was to see the 40th anniversary of the signing by all of the then members of the newly formed United Nations of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights which had taken place in Paris on 10th December 1948. A celebratory concert was staged at the cavernous Palais Omnisports de Bercy took place on 10th December 1998, and which was to feature sets by Sting, Peter, Bruce Springsteen and Tracy Chapman, and see the first performance of new material by Peter since the end of the US tour some four years earlier in a shirt set which comprised Red Rain, Signal To Noise and In Your Eyes.
With the new millennium now imminent, Peter returned to work on the commission he had received for the Millennium celebrations and the show which featured acrobats and film projections as well as Peter’s music, was well received by those who saw it during its run at the Millennium Dome. The music itself saw the light of day on 12th of June when the album, titled Ovo was released.
Peter then returned to the studio to continue work on the now long overdue new album. His profile was kept alive during this time by the sporadic appearance of contributions to several film soundtracks, which in fact has since become a regular feature of Peter’s way of drip feeding new music into the public domain. The largest in scale of these was the complete soundtrack to the film, Rabbit Proof Fence, a searing indictment of the treatment of the Aboriginal people of Australia by the authorities. Using the same format as he had done so successfully for the Passion soundtrack, Peter used native instruments and musical sound scapes to produce an atmospheric and densely layered soundtrack which once again, was the perfect accompaniment to the visuals. The film, however, well meaning was not to gain the same level of publicity as its predecessor but was well received by the critics upon its release. The soundtrack was subsequently released as The Long Walk Home.
By now the gaps between Peter’s albums had reached new levels and it was a full ten years since US and still no sign of its follow up although reports had given the new project its title: UP. Rumours abounded and there were reports that Peter had, in fact, completed almost a hundred tracks for the new project but had grown bored with them and scrapped the lot and started again! Incredible if true, but in any event, fans and record company were now waiting with bated breath for the new baby to be delivered.
Finally, on 23rd September 2002, UP was released, preceded by the first single from the album; The Barry Williams Show which gave us a fair indication of what to expect. The single’s searing indictment of our obsession with so-called Reality TV and its accompanying video, were both full of witty and acerbic observations on the subject.
The album itself, took as its premise the story of life from birth to death - not a very promising synopsis when looked at like that, but as usual, in the hands of a consummate artist such as Peter, the end result was a stunning piece of work. Darker and more introspective than its predecessor, this was perhaps Peter at his most cerebral. Tracks such as I Grieve, and in particular, Signal To Noise were every bit as powerful as anything he had committed to record previously. Growing Up evoked childhood fears and examined them almost clinically. This was not going to be an easy album for fans and a difficult one to project on to a concert setting.
After an appearance at the 2001 WOMAD event in Marymoor Park, at which both Signal To Noise, and Father, Son from the album had featured, it was time to take things out on the road again and the Growing Up tour got under way, after a few warm up gigs in Europe, in the USA in the autumn of 2002 and was to run, with varying breaks, and a change of title half way through to Still Growing Up until the summer of 2004.
For this one Peter worked closely with stage designer, Robert Lepage to create what remains one of the most adventurous and visually exciting stage presentations that Peter has ever staged. Audiences were to be greeted by such visions as their hero rampaging around the stage inside a giant Zorb Ball or chasing (!) other members of the band around stage on motorised Segways (or as I rather cynically perhaps call them, motorised Zimmer Frames!). Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the show was the upside down cycle track on which both Peter and his daughter Melanie raced during the performance of Downside Up.
In the live setting, the new album took on a life of its own and tracks such as Signal To Noise and Darkness both became firm stage favourites. As was usual, set lists differed from leg to leg and sometimes from night to night so the old adage of Expect The Unexpected was still alive and well and during the tours such as Baby Man, White Ashes and Animal Nation were performed, all of which remain unreleased.