Peter Gabriel in concert at the Echo Arena Liverpool on Sunday 7th December 2014. Review by Ian Hall. Photographs by Ted Sayers.
For many, Peter Gabriel is still seen as “The Progfather”, the man who defined a generation with stunning musical narration with a theatrical bent, and who still gets talked about lovingly as perhaps being able to capture those moments of outstanding early Genesis releases. To others he is the man who played his part in bringing down a regime so vile and disturbing that it sends a shiver down the spine when images from that time are shown on television.
An innovator, a genius, a shy deliverer of image-conscious thought, or even a man who made Progressive Rock what it is more than any other. Peter Gabriel is above all else, and arguably always will be, one of the most human of humans, the man to whom thousands, even those who profess a dislike to the Progressive genre, will flock to see every time he plays a gig.
On a brutally cold December evening, an evening where most who suggest to do anything but sit in front of the television and be bored to death by endless Government ideals is an act of lunacy. Peter Gabriel made a very long overdue return to a city which holds him in the highest of esteem. To look around the audience as the lights go up and witness the adoration of a crowd long deprived of his presence is to feel a kinship, the brief understanding of what music means to an individual in a room where loneliness is, if not eradicated, at least put to one side for a short but emotional while.
Peter Gabriel was in the city of music to perform his universally accepted and much loved album So. The album for who many see as the moment when the word Genesis finally left the stuttering vocabulary. The elements of all that went before him were still there; the theatrical play, the immersive word association and image-ridden beauty, but this was the album in which being reborn was the peak of his solo career at that point.
Joining Peter on stage were long time associates Tony Levin, David Rhodes, David Sancious and Manu Katche, alongside two young women from Sweden who captivated audiences on the previous legs of the tour and as support to the main event earlier in the evening, the sensational Jenni Abrahamson and Linnea Olsson. Nobody in the audience would perhaps have been surprised if there had been a rumble of approval from another place, the joining of a spirit unseen but for whom the muse of serendipity is a big fan, this was not just a concert, the playing of music, in which to capture the long gone memories of 1986. This was mutual appreciation taken to its proper place and granted a sense of immortality.
The planned slow build up was carefully precise, two tracks in which the house lights were kept blazing away and in which made the freezing cold that emanated from those who had just entered the arena turn noticeably to steam. Two tracks that set the standard of the evening high and proud. The quiet repose of What Lies Beneath was soon racked up and turned with style to the brutal Shock The Monkey and the finality of Family Snapshot before going full throttle into two very different halves.
The first contained favourites such as Digging In The Dirt, the overwhelming inclusivity of Secret World and the breathtaking Solsbury Hill, whilst the second part was the purity and sanctity of the album So.
Emotional highs were gained, shuddering depths of terrific absolution were sought and throughout it all, Peter Gabriel and his band were doing what comes naturally and what some performers forget to do, which is to have fun, pure delightful and enjoyable pleasure.
Tracks such as Red Rain, Sledgehammer and Big Time were greeted like old friends who have spent the last ten years travelling the world, whilst songs such as the loving Mercy Street and In Your Eyes affected the tenderness within each person present marvellously.
Whether Peter Gabriel ever comes back to Liverpool is a question that not even serendipity can answer but he certainly would have walked off the stage at the Echo Arena safe in the knowledge that for the rest of his life and beyond, he will have not have been appreciated and as loved by any other audience. Some moments in time are too precious not to see. In 2014 Peter Gabriel at the Echo Arena was musically one such moment.