The man has aged. Even Mick Jagger looks pretty much the same as he did 10 years ago. A shaved head and a snow-white goatee give Peter Gabriel a look of the Intellectual Musician. This isn’t music for art’s sake. He no longer has a need to prove anything. After all, no one forgot him despite a decade-long silence on your favourite store’s CD rack. He now has a simple need to express himself.
Sadly, not that many people are here to hear his messages. The 1,500-capacity venue is not only not full, but it is full of fans who are here because they loved Sledgehammer back in Peter’s heyday of the ’80s. Kind of like those who go and see The Rolling Stones just because they’re The Rolling Stones. But ha! They’re in for a surprise. Peter has carefully omitted any tracks dating from the pre-1985 era. No ‘Shock The Monkey’ tonight. Just perhaps a shock to the system.
It is just three days before the official release of his latest opus Up (he’s making progress in the album title department), so this is a sort of premiere for the fans who get to hear almost the entire album live before hearing the studio version. What they discover is a Peter who has reinvented himself. New musicians (including his daughter on backing vocals), new directions, yet he is still fond of the synthesizer. The music oscillates between world music and electronica.
Darkness – the song – opens the show and the Up track listing follows, while the audience eagerly awaits for a golden oldie to sing along to. The single The Barry Williams Show is the only track they seem to recognise.
Some tracks are painstakingly long. Over six minutes. He seems to be carrying some sort of weight on his shoulders; at times he releases massive doses of adrenaline, while at others he retreats into soft melodies, remaining half-hidden behind his keyboards for nearly two hours. He even gives a glimpse of his next album – already – by playing an exclusive track called Animal Nation.
One special fan receives a dedication – the man who gave us Peter Gabriel, his father, present tonight. He also takes the opportunity to test his French, an exercise always pleasing to a French audience. Oh yes, he knows what his fans want. And he gives it to them. After hearing Sledgehammer, Digging In The Dirt and Mercy Street, they leave happy.
But this concert is just a prelude to his upcoming, more elaborate and less minimalist tour. Maybe we’ll get Shock The Monkey then.