“Give me steam” - Peter Gabriel in concert at the Sporthalle, Hamburg and Deutschlandhalle Berlin on 16th and 17th April 1993. Concerts reviewed by Karin Woywod. Photographs by Shirley Powell.
It’s needless to say: Peter’s new shows are ACE!!!
The new stage format is a brilliant idea - it provides almost everyone in the aidience with a damn good view. There are in fact two stages - a circular “female” one with a moveable flying saucer-like dome above it, and a square “male” one with a hinged video screen above it.
The moment has come - the lights go out and something is moving on the veiled (under a “Secret World” design) square stage. The veil sinks and Peter appears in a red telephone box for the opening bars of Come Talk To Me - what a fitting visual interpretation. Peter exits, receiver still in hand. All eyes are on Peter and it is no wonder that I missed some of what was simultaneously going on on the video screen.
An unknown quiet intro leads us into Steam, and Peter still crossing the catwalk from end to end addressing both sides of the audience, gives I all the energy he has amazingly with not the slightest trace of vocal problems! Despite the early stage of the tour, Peter’s memory is as reliable as usual ; i.e. plays tricks on him and occasional lines slip from memory allowing him to experiment with more Gabrielese. Games Without Frontiers follows, repeating Peter’s “marching ritual” and the “war without tears” audience participation of previous shows. In Berlin the song is specially dedicated to Berlin!
Then there is one of the climaxes of the concert - Across The River, with a few words about WOMAD, Peter on the square stage faces Shankar on the otherwise empty round one, which is bathed in blue light. It begins as an improvisation between Shankar’s violin and Peter’s voice, eventually leading into the more familiar parts of the song accompanied by flowing images on the screen behind evolving into Floating Dogs, while Peter and the rest of the band are punting slowly on imaginary boats across the great divide towards the round stage. Now comes the section where Peter and everyone else seem to have the most fun in the show. First, when everyone is assembled on the circular stage, a tree appears on the centre of it and appropriately enough, Shaking The Tree begins. Peter looks for dance partners among the single band members and together with them is generating a lot of fun amongst the audience AND the people on stage!
The same tree is still in place for Blood Of Eden (standing alone: Joy Askew) with an emotional performance by Peter desperately seeking support from the tree and duetting brilliantly with Joy, The Wim Wenders chorus of “… the blood of Eden keeps running through me/running through my veins” is incorporated and I am growing fonder and fonder of this original part of the song - can’t see why Peter did without it on the album version! At the same time on the other stage’s screen, excerpts from the Blood Of Eden video and new animated visuals appear.
Again alone, on the barely lit catwalk, Peter starts an impressive performance of San Jacinto kneeling on a low cart slowly being drawn towards the big full moon image on the video screen opposite him. At the time of “we will walk on the land…” Peter vanishes behind the screen only to have his shadow twisted by the lights in time with the rhythm of his breathing. Finally, Peter’s shadow seems to indicate him flying away with the last bars of the song dying away indicating that the Indian of the song has finally reached his aim/goal.
A new intro starts on the square stage. While the screen is showing blinking neon adverts, city skylines and motel signs, a small motel with bed, TV set and chair is built below - and wait! There’s something moving on the bed - it’s Peter! The song is the new, unreleased Love Town and I have immediately fallen in love with it!!! Peter stretches out on the bed, slowly rises, mimes dressing himself and looks forlorn - a stranger in a strange, cold big city, lost in the night. A very long emotional song, but I wouldn’t want to miss a second of it!! To create a totally different mood, Peter bursts into Kiss That Frog, dancing with that chair. I’d never have thought it possible to use a chair with sexual connotations but (thanks to Peter) it really IS possible. While behind him, the screen is showing coloured shapes, oddly enough of swimming frogs. Peter plays the harmonica for the first time while sitting backwards on the chair, climbing on it, dancing on it and generally bursting with (sexual) energy.
Then everything goes dark again while Peter on the catwalk, barely lit by rotating pinpoint lights, breaks into a heartrending version of Washing Of The Water, again it is time for surprises as I would never have thought he would be able to bring this voice breaking song alive on stage but he does and everyone is under his spell. It’s my favourite song on the album - it’s just pure magic! Pure poetry!! To break the spell, Peter launches into Solsbury Hill and the audience go crazy! People are partying, dancing and singing as much as they can. Now he has every member of the crowd in his grasp.
Peter then dons a small helmet with a small dangling lamp in front of his face, making him look like a coal miner or a mole! We soon learn from the images on the video screen that the lamp is in fact a small video camera, pointing directly at Peter’s face. All this is for Digging In The Dirt. Peter crawls on the floor examining tunnel-like cloths with his head and the new device shows images of his mouth, nose and ears on screen. At the end of the song, the screen shows a series of images of Peter beginning with a shot of him as a baby “morphing” into childhood photos, Genesis period photos ageing continually until the face of an old man appears and ultimately, a skull.
Sledgehammer follows and Peter is gyrating his hips like old times, accompanied by Tony on the catwalk. Retreating to his piano, Peter goes quiet again for Secret World where the screen shows animated scenes of keyholes, houses, doors and keyholes again before finally displaying a picture of the “secret globe”. This was to be the last song of the main set and the band vanished off stage one after the other into a normal sized suitcase on the catwalk after which the now closed suitcase gradually moves towards the circular stage where it is covered by the lowering dome.
After a storm of applause, the band re-appear out of the dome to break into In Your Eyes much to the amusement of both the arm swaying crowd and the artists themselves. The hall boils and so it is a bit disappointing when the dome is lowered again just after this one song. But we feel that there has to be more and obviously a thrilling Biko closes the evening - lighters ignited and right fists clenched. The audience is the only musician that remains when one after the other, the band stops playing to sit beside Peter on the steps in the middle of the stage.
The dome is lowered and raised for a final time for the band to say their final farewells. As the concert and atmosphere and the fun generated amongst Peter, the band and the audience was better in Berlin than Hamburg, Peter addressed the latter audience in German “Ich auch bin ein Berliner” (Me, I’m a Berliner too!) much to the audience’s delight. Please come back soon, Peter!
Thanks very much for the review, Karin. Obviously Peter made a great impression in Europe as well as in the UK - here’s to a successful remainder of the tour for him and the band!