"It’s Only Water (with apologies to some of the posters on pg.com)" - Peter Gabriel live at Blickling Hall, Norwich, 21st July 2007 by Ted Sayers.
Originally dubbed the Warm Up Tour, Gabriel’s current jaunt across Europe has swiftly been re-named the Umbrella Tour due to the ridiculous amounts of rain dumped on the (mainly) outdoor audiences. Warm Up to what though? Initially it was meant to be one gig at the relocated WOMAD Festival in Malmesbury to mark its 25th anniversary but Gabriel felt it hardly worthwhile getting a band together for a single show so it became a full-blown tour culminating at the aforementioned WOMAD gig.
The tour’s arrival in the rock ‘n’ roll centre of the universe that is Norwich must have raised a few eyebrows given the remote location but the audience seemed more than happy to be there. But rock ‘n’ roll was never meant to be like this. We were advised deckchairs, picnics, etc were very welcome in the arena and soon after the gates were opened the area in front of the stage resembled a restaurant. All surreal but civilised with the lake to the right of the stage only adding to the ambience.
Gabriel took to the stage early in the proceedings to introduce each of the three support acts who were all greeted with customary enthusiasm. So with the rain only making brief appearances we were filled with optimism for Gabriel’s set. Returning to the stage around 9 O’clock Gabriel and the band got straight into their stride with Rhythm Of The Heat, Ged Lynch’s powerhouse drumming was made for this track. Storming through On The Air, Intruder and DIY Gabriel’s voice was in fine form, all songs that Gabriel has ignored in a live setting since the early 80s. This set the tone for the majority of the gig having asked members of his lunatic fringe on petergabriel.com to provide a top 10 of songs they’d like him to play. Already many of these tracks have come and quickly vanished from the set. Earlier shows included such gems as Not One Of Us, We Do What We’re Told, I Grieve and Indigo but appear to have been deemed to “not work”.
Of course there were some necessary concessions to the casual watcher and Steam was the first of these. Seen as a 2nd rate Sledgehammer by many, the song lightened the mood somewhat after the intensity of the previous material. These concessions were few though and spread around with Big Time being the most surprising addition. Not being one of his best pieces of work and the disappointing memories of the last time he played this, it was surprising to see him really pull it off this time.
The previous night the band had played in Brittany and there appeared to have been a delay in getting some of the equipment over to this, difficult to reach part of the UK. For this reason the setlist ended up slightly curtailed to what had been intended. However, there was little to disappoint in what was played and the gig still ran to around an hour and fifty minutes. The band themselves appeared to have only made it to the site very late in the day and once they took to the stage it became obvious that one of them hadn’t made it all. Peter’s daughter, Melanie, who has been singing Mother Of Violence solo, was nowhere to be seen. It appears that she had a family matter to deal with according to the tour diary posted by Richard Chappell a couple of days later. Consequently Mother Of Violence was totally absent from tonight’s setlist, it would have been a nice touch if Gabriel had sang the song himself.
Since the appearance of Lay Your Hands On Me in 1982 whenever he’s played it the song has been the setting for Gabriel’s descent into the arms of the audience. Sadly the track disappeared from the set altogether after 1988’s Human Rights Now! Tour. Its reappearance this year led many to speculate as to whether he would still perform the fall; it quickly became apparent that this was not going to be the case. However, the song was one of the highlights for me with such a great sing along chorus we were swept away in the moment.
Poor weather conditions have been a recurring theme this tour and by now the rain had really arrived. So we moved into the climax of the show and back into familiar territory. A powerful Signal To Noise and Sledgehammer closed the set with In Your Eyes unsurprisingly opening the encores with the inevitable congregation of support artists joining the Gabriel troupe. The stage was looking somewhat crowded by now also being inhabited by Savy, the Zawose Family and Charlie Winston, the latter struggling to find a working microphone. Almost inevitably it was Biko that closed the set with Gabriel having been asked to perform it recently in South Africa by Bishop Desmond Tutu for the launch of The Elder’s project.
It would be nice to think that some of these resurrected songs will have re-invigorated Gabriel’s enthusiasm sufficiently for them to hang around for the next tour (whenever that might be), but if not then I’ll just be happy to have been able to hear them reinvented. As for the weather, well we hardly noticed the rain once the show got underway. After all it’s only water.
The Rhythm Of The Heat
On The Air
Blood Of Eden
No Self Control
Lay Your Hands On Me
Signal To Noise
In Your Eyes
Photos: E. Sayers (copyright)