“The Lamb Lies Down In Birmingham” - Peter Gabriel’s final UK concert with Genesis at the Hippodrome Birmingham on 2nd May 1975. Review by Kevin Powell.
Friday 2nd May 1975 is a date that is entrenched firmly in my mind. It was raining consnattnly, and as an excited fifteen year old I found it extremely difficult to concentrate on my schoolwork. The reason for all this excitement? The fact that I was going to my first ever rock concert which just so happened to be the final date on the British leg of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway tour.
A couple of school friends and I arrived at the Birmingham Hippodrome at around 7.30pm and the gig was due to start at 8pm. However, as I was soon to find out, concerts rarely start on time. Eventually at about 8.30pm the theatre lights dimmed, the curtain, which had completely hidden the stage and instruments, rose and the theatre was filled with a cloud of green dry ice.
The opening tinkling piano arpeggio intro to The Lamb… drifted eerily through the speakers and gradually the lights grew brighter to reveal the band in all their glory. The spotlights first came on the four musicians: Banks, Collins, Hackett and Rutherford before Peter Gabriel emerged from the back of the stage clad in a black leather jacket, white T shirt, jeans and sneakers, his face painted in a rusty brown makeup with eyes heavily emphasised with thick black streaks. He looked very different from the photos I had seen of him in his complete costume with flower mask, Britannia etc…
He spat out the opening lines of the title song and the adrenalin began flowing as the concert suddenly burst into life. After the wonderful soaring Fly On A Windshield, Gabriel disappeared, crouching down in front of Tony Banks’ keyboards, now bare chested for the gentle Cuckoo Cocooon, displaying his talents on the flute before the heartbeat intro to In The Cage.
Throughout the first part of the gig it was difficult to know what to look at apart from the strong presence of Gabriel and the four other musicians.. There was also a three screen display at the back of the stage which was supposed to help explain the storyline, although,perhaps looking back at it now - perhaps some of the images were a little obscure. One of the most vivid ones I can recall was for the beautiful instrumental Hairless Heart where the screens were filled with a massive red glowing heart!
Then there was an improvised piece of music whilst stage hands fumbled in the semi darkness to assemble the spectacular Lamia - a huge glowing ultra violet tent which engulfed Gabriel slowly and revolved around him as he sang the sensitive and quite superb lines to a great song (prior to all this the band had been engaged in a prolonged version of The Waiting Room - where have I heard that name before…???) with Gabriel adding to the weird and wonderful noises by twiddling around with the frequencies of a large radio.
Anyway - pardon the pun, back to the story … After The Lamia and Silent Sorrow In Empty Boats the quirky intro to The Colony Of The Slippermen began with Gabriel slowly crawling down a translucent tunnel before emerging as the grotesque Slipperman with his naughty lumps and bumps - he had previously likened the Slipperman to Phil Collins in a between-numbers story to the audience. After the chilling Ravine, Gabriel re-emerged back as Rael and remained that way until the closing number: It.
For the encore number the band performed full versions of The Musical Box (complete with the old man mask) and The Knife. I particularly remember the staccato guitar riff near the end - Gabriel now dressed in his old black cat suit, charging up and down the stage, holding the microphone stand like a sword as the strobed lights added extra menace with their slow motion effect.
All too quickly it was over and I was left breathless. It was sheer magic - maybe I am biased but I have seen Genesis many times since that first gig but for me it was the band at their very best - musically and visually. I am sure a lot of people will disagree (including the editor!!).
My last and funniest memory of the night was upon leaving the theatre, a couple of fans had been given (or stolen) a life-sized figure of the Slipperman in hardboard which had been used for promotion purposes alongside the tour programmes, posters etc and were seen carrying it down Hurst Street and disappearing into the gloomy night - it was still raining!