“PG 3D” - Peter Gabriel in concert at the Hammersmith Apollo London on 23rd March 2011. Review and photographs Ted Sayers.
Almost twelve months since Gabriel’s last gigs in London to promote the
Scratch My Back album, he returned to the stage at the Hammersmith Apollo (formerly
Odeon), this time the aim was to film the shows in 3D. The shows at the 02 Arena
in 2010 were played in front of larger crowds, with Gabriel playing the whole
of the aforementioned album in order for the first half of the show then returning
after a short interval to play orchestral versions of some of his more familiar
material. When these 2011 gigs were announced there was no indication as to
whether or not they would follow the same format, so it was with some level
of trepidation that the audience took their seats.
Right from the moment Gabriel took to the stage, it was clear that this was to be a different approach to last year, with the introduction to Intruder, as a song he hadn’t played twelve months ago. Until very recently Gabriel had still been working in the studio on many of these older tracks so new arrangements had been recorded which meant that maybe they were fresher in his mind and therefore more likely to be on display this evening. This was possibly the case with Wallflower, which was next up. Precluded by one of his infamous false starts. A firm favourite for many years, it is remarkable that this, still relevant song, doesn’t get more of an outing. A solo piano version had recently been posted on his website with Tom Cawley accompanying him.
Form there we were scratching Paul Simon’s back with the somewhat understated Boy In The Bubble, before moving on to the proverbial backs of some other artists with Regina Spektor’s Apres Moi, Magnetic Fields’ Book of Love and Lou Reed’s Power of The Heart. These were the only backs he was scratching this evening though and they were interspersed with The Drop and Darkness from Up.
For those not previously aware, the presence of a couple of very large 3D cameras across the front of the stage will have made it obvious that the gig was being filmed and to press the point home, Gabriel announced that this was the case with a possible (since confirmed) release on DVD and Blu Ray later this year.
The show then shifted up a notch into some very powerful areas with Biko closing the first half. Again, this was something he’d been working on recently during the recording sessions. In this case I think I am correct in saying that this was the live debut of this particular arrangement.
After a twenty minute break, the players retook the stage and the second half followed the pattern of last year’s shows more closely with San Jacinto opening. This song in particular has transferred well to the orchestral medium, retaining the musical imagery of the original. The rest of the show pretty much followed the pattern of the shows from 2010, with only Rhythm Of The Heat being added to the list that already included Digging In The Dirt, Blood Of Eden, Mercy Street, Signal To Noise, Red Rain etc…
The encore of Don’t’ Give Up following In Your Eyes was a highlight, especially given the chequered nature of previous live performances. Anne Brun who has been supporting Peter on all of these orchestral shows dating back to Paris in March last year, brings her own style whilst not detracting from the song. This has been one of my favourites of the duets since the original with Kate Bush.
Peter more or less left the stage to the musicians for the final piece of the evening; Ovo’s The Nest That Sailed The Sky.
Having seen two very different versions of these shows I would venture to say that the musicians (including Gabriel himself) have grown into their musical surroundings with close on forty performances and more to come in South America this Autumn. It seems that these Hammersmith shows (there was a second, the following evening), will see the light of day around the same time as the recorded studio album versions of his own material on the forthcoming New Blood album. The 3D version will show in selected cinemas, so for those that couldn’t get to these gigs, it will be just like being there.