"Thoughts on two concerts" - Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett by Penny Rose. Photos by Alan Hewitt and Ted Sayers.
After seeing both Peter’s and Steve’s shows last weekend I wrote down a few impressions. Then I wondered if they might be of some interest to fellow TWR readers, as a slight variation form individual concert reviews? Anyway, you did say “keep ‘em coming” so here they are for your consideration….
Genesis members are like buses: you wait for ages then two come along at once. Thus it was that I saw Peter Gabriel’s So Back To Front show at the Manchester Arena on 25th October 2013 followed by Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited show at the Manchester Apollo the next night. In those circumstances it was impossible not to compare the artists and their shows.
Both were catering for nostalgic audiences by touring old material and both had excellent bands who could do justice to the songs, although invariably Peter’s had the best singer and Steve’s the best guitarist. Both shows were rapturously received.
There were some pleasant similarities between the two former band mates. Both were humble and self-effacing, with Peter thanking all the backroom staff in his tour, while Steve invited the crowd to sing along and wryly commented that that in the early days The Fountain of Salmacis would send half the audience out to the bar! Both had put a lot of thought and care into their presentations and performance and it was clear that neither of them were just going through the motions to rake in the money. Both appeared to be genuinely happy and enjoying what they were doing with Peter more animated and energetic than seemed possibly given his bulky figure. , while Steve, always the more static one, smiled broadly throughout much of the show. Steve has changed far less dramatically and is now a craggier version of his 1970-’s self albeit without such eye-catching touches as the strawberry polyester jacket. By contrast, Peter is unrecognisable as the pop star of So, let alone as the svelte apparition with flowing dark hair who stuns unwary You Tube viewers searching for early Genesis video clips. But at least age hasn’t hit either of them where it would hurt the most: Steve still has complete mastery of the guitar and Peter has his extraordinary voice.
Peter had the more elaborate stage show, including a battery of spotlights mounted on cranes which surrounded and lunged menacingly at him during the eerie No Self Control and a cascading white Tower That Ate People which engulfed him during the encore. Steve had back projection screens on which a comic animation sequence accompanied The Return of The Giant Hogweed, not to mention singer Nad Sylvan’s procession of natty waistcoats. An advantage of Steve’s more modest stage set up was that it fitted into theatres like the Apollo, whereas Peter was confined to playing huge venues whose drawbacks were demonstrated during his acoustic opening number: the attempt to create an intimate atmosphere was doomed to fail in the cavernous arena.
Both these shows would have conjured up ghosts for Genesis fans even without the shouts for Supper’s Ready directed at Peter, or the fan wearing the red dress (it was a sweatshirt actually see photo on Words From The Editing Suite page - AH) and fox head who rose from the front row right on cue during The Musical Box. While the spectres of Steve’s old bandmates loomed large, Peter’s finest songs were also conspicuous by their absence. Granted the audience had come to hear his 1980’s hits but The Family & The Fishing Net wasn’t one of them and most people would surely have found Carpet Crawlers or The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway more enjoyable. However, Peter’s highlights, particularly Secret World really were highs. Steve’s show was more even, simply because it didn’t contain a single weak song; this was hardly surprising since Genesis produced so few during his tenure.
What would have improved these concerts for me? Quite simply, Peter coming on stage at the end of Steve’s show and singing Can-Utility & The Coastliners. Sadly that was unlikely as the five man era Genesis reunion that will never happen. But in its absence it would be churlish to complain about two excellent shows by former members, each playing to his considerable strengths.