“Quality time with Peter Gabriel” - Peter Gabriel live at The Summit, Houston, Texas on 30th July 1993. Review by Bill Brink.
This was BIG, you have no doubt already read about Peter Gabriel’s Secret World tour, so I will try to avoid re-telling the obvious. The general observations that could be made about this show are more or less as follows, and please bear in mind that the last show I saw was back in ‘82. I missed the So tour because I was almost dead. These are the factors that seemed to be at work:
The Success Factor: In spite of the fact that he can now afford to buy a massive amount of visual equipment (screens etc) , Peter Gabriel has remained a PERFORMER. Even on those occasions when an image was projected on to the screen, most people were still watching the MAN. That speaks volumes, particularly in contrast to other shows that have appeared recently. Even when he played the oldest of his material such as Solsbury Hill and Here Comes The Flood, it was done with a passion. Mr Gabriel, I salute you.
The Sombre Factor: Having read the various interviews with friends and seen the ones that PG has done himself, it always seemed like the stage persona and the “real” persona were very different. To all accounts he is a rather shy individual, very unlike what I would have thought after seeing the “Security” tour. But that has changed. I think the square stage, round stage metaphor fits. This show seemed to find the middle ground between Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - some of the more “in your face” songs such as Games Without Frontiers and San Jacinto were significantly more sombre than I have ever heard them before. A whole new image was added to the songs without really changing a word. The pop factor was almost completely eliminated, and it was not until later in the show that it really occurred to me that one of the more subtle musical changes was the relative de-emphasis of the drums, not the rhythm mind you, but the drums. They were not nearly as stark as they had been in the past. One was left wandering through the songs without so much punctuation. It worked. There were new sights in familiar places.
The “Not Like It Was Before” Factor: in conversation with some folks and in reading from local newspapers, I gather that some people were expecting a more hi energy show, reminiscent of the ’82 tour and the videos. I suppose that expectation is not too surprising given the fact that a very large part of the audience was not familiar with the bulk of PG’s work, and have only heard the very upbeat songs from his albums (including the most recent one which is decidedly more introspective and pensive than any previous).
Apparently this show was a little different from what he had done in Europe. The play list was as follows: Passion Intro/Come Talk To Me/Steam/Games Without Frontiers/ Across The River/Shaking The Tree/Blood Of Eden/San Jacinto/Family Snapshot/ Kiss That Frog/Washing Of The Water/Solsbury Hill/Sledgehammer/Digging In The Dirt/Secret World/In Your Eyes/Biko/Here Comes The Flood.
And guess what? I took notes in the dark! Here are a few of the “real time” observations. The beginning was too good to writer anything. While dancing about the stage during Steam, Peter almost started to look like Mick Jagger and then came Games Without Frontiers and who was that guy on the screen? Lenin? It looked like it might be. That song was quite a bit more ominous than on record, and if you read this Peter, my apologies for the lameness of the Houston crowd. Repeatedly throughout the show when the sing-along portions were played the crowd response SUCKED. In fact, when he did Shaking The Tree, he asked everyone to sing a note and then stopped with the remark; “This is Texas, we’ll try that again” - sorry man!
After announcing that they had not practised it much, Gabriel sang the opening line of Family Snapshot, stopped, stepped away from the keyboard and said; “this is what we call in musician’s terms a f**k up” No one I spoke to heard anything wrong. Although someone said that he grumbled as he returned to the piano, “Thank God I don’t have to make a living at this” - what?
Kiss That Frog initially sounded a whole lot like I Have The Touch and finished with some jumping about on stage that was reminiscent of Shock The Monkey. Solsbury Hill got a surprisingly big response from a crowd that otherwise was restrained. Digging In The Dirt and the face cam! Lordy, that was some piece of work. When he pulled back far enough that you could see his whole face, the fish eye lens made him look like Pete Townshend! And another interesting little note: the words were changed to “digging in the dirt to find the places I got hurt” on all refrains - hmm. Sledgehammer, predictably had everyone dancing and during the In Your Eyes encore, he draped a Mexican flag over his shoulders and did a little caper about the stage.
Before he could begin to sing Biko, one of the crew approached him and apparently told him that his head set microphone was dead so he had to use a regular mic - pink slip! (US slang for getting the sack). Then at the end of Biko when the dome came back down over the stage, someone forgot to pull all the mics in from the edges. As a result, the dome took the mic and stand with it. The cord was still plugged in and stopped the dome at half mast. Peter went over and unhooked the cord but when everyone else returned to the stage they avoided standing beneath it! Another pink slip! Did I mention my almost complete awe with regard to Tony Levin’s playing skills? The man is incredible and finally… Here Comes The Flood. It was just Peter at the piano. An unexpected treat this. I wouldn’t have thought that the crowd deserved it. Apparently we did something right - thanks.
I would like to thank Deborah and Edwin at “Second Vision” for all their help and information (they made this possible), Geffen Records for the photos, Pace Concerts for all their help in trying to get a press pass, and finally the Erwin Centre in Austin for pointing me in the right direction after the show here was cancelled - thanky, thanky.
And thanks from us here at TWR for that different perspective, Bill. And our
congratulations on your recent elevation to the Purple!