"Human Rights Now In The Secret World" - The Peter Gabriel Story Part 5 by Alan Hewitt. Tickets and memorabilia: TWR Archive.
The end of the highly successful So tour in October 1987 didn’t mark the end of Peter’s activities, far from it. In fact, the next eighteen months or so saw an unprecedented spate of activity from the Gabriel camp.
The highest priority initially came with the construction of Peter’s new studio: Real World which had the dual purpose of enabling him to record in his own time, but also to give facilities to other Real World artists, many of whom had not had access to such facilities before. This activity also saw the creation of Peter’s second soundtrack album, this time for the highly controversial film; The Last Temptation Of Christ, which was directed by Martin Scorsese. The music emerged later on the double album Passion in 1989 but at the time the film itself looked likely to gain notoriety for all concerned.
Peter did not remain a stranger to the concert stage for long either. He became involved in the 1988 Prince’s Trust Gala and performed two shows for them in June 1988 at which Peter performed Sledgehammer accompanied by Phil Collins amongst others. The second benefit concert was far more in keeping with Peter’s ethnic involvements, being the 70th birthday celebrations for South African leader, Nelson Mandela which was held at Wembley Stadium. Peter appeared with Sly and Robbie’s posse to sing Set Them Free and then later to perform Biko in his own right, backed by Simple Minds along with versions of Sun City and Free Nelson Mandela. This was Peter’s first ever appearance at the stadium and many people were surprised to see him back there a mere three months later as part of the Human Rights Now entourage. In order to prepare for this, Peter and his band spent a week rehearsing and surprised everyone by appearing unannounced at the WOMAD festival in August. For this performance, Peter played music from the film soundtrack for the first time along with some older pieces. The full set was as follows: Across The River/African Shuffle/Red Rain/Don’t Give Up/No Self Control/Islamic Offbeat/Sledgehammer/In Your Eyes/Biko.
In September the Human Rights Now world tour took place, taking in nineteen shows in four continents. Accompanying Peter were Sting, Tracy Chapman, Youssou N’Dour and Bruce Springsteen along with other local artists at several shows along the way. The set for the show varied depending on the location and the amount of time that Peter was onstage because he was not the headlining act. That honour was reserved for the egos of Springsteen and Sting. In the UK the set consisted of… Of These Hope/Games Without Frontiers/Family Snapshot/Shock The Monkey/Don’t Give Up/Sledgehammer/Biko. As the tour continued, Peter’s performances improved no end and by the time they reached the last show at Buenos Aires, almost a month later, Peter was in stunning form. The TV footage of the show proved that his duet with Tracy Chapman was particularly impressive on Don’t Give Up. The tour was certainly a landmark in Peter’s development and it was a vast improvement on the previous Amnesty tour; A Conspiracy Of Hope which had taken place prior to the So tour back in the summer of 1986.
After such a hectic period, many would have expected Peter to take time off to recuperate both mentally and physically but this was not to be the case. Early in 1989, he helped the ecological movement Greenpeace to gain a foothold in the then crumbling Soviet Union, promoting the Breakthrough album in Moscow. The soundtrack to The Last Temptation Of Christ film was finally released under the title of Passion, an album of what is arguably some of Peter’s strongest music ever. All of this and work on the much vaunted theme park; Real World combined to make this a busy time. Peter also took time out to help fellow Real World artists including Youssou N’ Dour, whose Shaking The Tree single featured Peter on vocals.
In 1990 Peter took part in the concert held at Wembley Stadium to celebrate the release from prison of Nelson Mandela and this time the entire performance was broadcast on TV by the BBC. Peter’s set was as follows: Sun City/Don’t Give Up (on which he was once again helped out by Tracy Chapman)/In Your Eyes/Biko. He followed this with a further trip to Chile in October for the “Embrazo de Esperanza” concert where he duetted with Sinead O’Connor for the first time, an indication of what was to come almost three years later.
This years also saw the release of the long awaited live video - PoV which had been filmed at the shows in Athens almost three years before - a long time editing perhaps? To coincide with the compilation rush at Christmas, Peter also treated his fans to Shaking The Tree : Sixteen Golden Greats (or twelve if you bought the vinyl edition). This collection brought together several interesting versions of some of Peter’s old songs including a marvellous version of Here Comes The Flood.
The following year was spent in the studio trying to put ideas down for his
next album which was still almost three years away from release. However, Peter
did find time to play a short set in Dakar in honour of Nelson Mandela’s
visit there in April and he also appeared as part of the “Simple Truth”
concert raising money for Kurdish refugees. Taking a break from the album sessions,
Peter organised the first Real World recording week to take place at the studios
which involved artists from all around the world. It ended with a gala concert
at the studios. 1992 was spent finishing off the album and as the September
release date loomed large, Peter decided to return to the stage in the UK, this
time though as Master of Ceremonies rather than as performer, although he did
in fact, play occasionally when he helped out Youssou N’Dour at one show.
September saw the release of the new album; Us. It wasn’t long before Peter took himself back into the touring fray again with what has proven to be not only his longest tour but also his most innovative since his days with Genesis. The Secret World tour as it would become known, opened in February in Australia with Peter and the band playing two shows at the WOMADELAIDE Festival, which was a showcase for the tour proper which opened in the USA in April. Peter did a couple of warm-up shows at the Academy Of Music in New York before the full tour got under way. At these gigs, the band rehearsed the entire gamut of tracks that might be include din the main set. As usual, Peter performed a mixture of tracks from old and new albums but it wasn’t so much the selection of tracks that caused people to talk, but the stage presentation itself. To say that it was impressive is an understatement. It was without doubt the most adventurous stage presentation ever devised, including a red telephone box, trees rising from the centre of the stage and an in-depth examination of Peter’s oral and nasal cavities with the aid of a mini video camera.
The shows were certainly well received and the audience were completely enthralled. A typical set during the first leg of the tour ran as follows: Come Talk To Me/Steam/Games Without Frontiers/Across The River/Zaar/Shaking The Tree/Blood Of Eden/San Jacinto/ Love Town/Kiss That Frog/Washing of The Water/Solsbury Hill/Digging In The Dirt/Sledgehammer/Secret World/In Your Eyes/Biko/Here Comes The Flood.
At several shows on the tour, Only Us and Love To Be Loved were played in addition to the above. Many other variations in the set were performed in different locations. The “Peace Together” Festival in Belfast was unfortunately cancelled due to many other things, poor ticket sales! Chart success came early to the album. It entered the charts in the top ten as did the first single; Digging In The Dirt which still made the top ten despite the BBC banning the video! Three more singles followed later in the year; Steam, Blood Of Eden and most recently; Kiss That Frog, none of which emulated the first single’s success.
Even as this article is being written, the tour is still underway and it is set to take Peter around the world by the end of 1994. Even though he is on tour, his releases have continued with the venture into the world of computer software in the shape of Xplora 1, the world’s first interactive music CD ROM. There has also been the All About Us compilation video including all of the promotional videos from the album as well as several oldies. There is still the prospect of further releases this year in the form of a live album and video and it only remains to see what else Peter has up his sleeve for his fans. He has certainly taken risks with this album and tour but it looks as if the gamble has paid off. It leaves me wondering how he is going to top all of this but whatever he does, I am sure it will be worth the wait!