“Us on tour” - Peter Gabriel in concert at Earls Court Arena, London on 31st May and 1st June 1993. Review by Dave Dennis. Photographs by Shirley Powell/Pauline Thompson. Memorabilia: TWR archive.
With newspapers carrying advertisements that tickets would still be available on the night, in the eyes of the public, this was a different Peter Gabriel to the man who sold out the same venue for four nights six years ago. Having established from the box office that there were standing and seated tickets, this was clearly going to be a different show. Reviews from the previous European and Sheffield shows had alluded to the new production. However, on the first moment of seeing the “stage” this was indeed different. Apparently continuing the theme of Us, the rectangular stage representing the male and the circular stage, the female with a moving walkway between them, with us, the crowd, surrounding the entire performing area, Peter and Robert Lepage had redefined the “concert”.
The opening song was perhaps the strongest start to a show that I had ever seen. Perhaps those fortunate to have seen Genesis open with Watcher of The Skies could draw a comparison? As the screens surrounding the rectangular stage fell, Peter was revealed singing from the inside of a red telephone box. Emerging to a huge roar from the crowd he proceeded to overcome the unforgiving strength of the telephone line and painfully made his way toward Sinead O’Connor singing from the circular stage. Having sung a chorus together, and finally reached his goal, Peter found himself being dragged back toward the telephone box by the moving walkway. Brilliantly performed by Peter, Sinead and the band, this was a stunning piece of theatre.
High energy versions of Steam and Games Without Frontiers made way for the emotive Across the River. Here Peter was joined by Shankar and “an old German machine that doesn’t always work”. Following the final crescendo, Peter led the band to the circular stage using another brilliant piece of imagery. As the walkway slowly moved and the Vari-Lites set the scene ( and the roadies worked overtime to set up a second set of equipment!) Peter punted his way forward. Destination reached, the band broke into the carnival version of Shakin’ The Tree complete with tree! On the Tuesday night, with Peter clearly having a great time, he picked up the drumsticks and proceeded to play the drums to huge approval from the crowd.
A fine duet between Peter and Sinead on Blood Of Eden led into another classy set piece. Once again, the Vari-Lites painted the way for Peter to reach San Jacinto back along the walkway to be silhouetted against the video screen for the final “hold the line”. As Peter emerged on all fours and made his way around every inch of the stage, poking fun at the audience as he went, his band were turning in a powerful version of Shock The Monkey, David Rhodes ensuring that his crashing chords were perfectly timed to coincide with his own and Peter’s jumps. Calm was restored with a beautifully sung Washing Of The Water only for us in the seats to stand up and join in with a version of Solsbury Hill full of energy.
A high definition camera mounted on a flexible arm that was strapped to Peter’s head ensured that we all got a close-up view of Peter’s nose, mouth, eye and tongue whilst Peter was Digging In the Dirt on the circular stage. Once again, the intensity of this song was contrasted sharply with the rhythm and blues of Sledgehammer, which followed. The main set closed with an extended version of Secret World allowing Peter the opportunity to enjoy freedom away from any persona that he had taken during the evening. Having literally “packed” the band away, he made his rendezvous on time with his spaceship! Even here, Peter’s attention to detail was noticeable as he adopted the “backwards lean” that had been used to market these concerts on the posters as he waited for the ship to arrive. As he was taken aboard, the roadies were setting up inside the ship for the band to return for carnival time again with In Your Eyes.
As Peter and his Real World guests sand the chorus with arms being raised each time the arena was in full voice(perhaps this is the thinking man’s “getting in touch with the other world?”). Biko was a full-blooded version and a natural end to the show but for me personally, the only disappointment of the show. Peter has created a show totally different to anything he has done before and had chosen to finish with a widely respected but well-worn song. Perhaps this song does still have a message and Peter still believes it has a place in improving our world but why put it last? As Peter thanked all and sundry for a “special evening” and with the road crew in party mode, I was hoping he would treat us to a solo version of Here Comes The Flood. Alas, as the credits rolled on the screen, the assembled throng left a lot less exhausted than I am sure Peter was! There could have been few who had not felt privileged to have been allowed access to Peter’s Secret World.