Without embarrassingly going into detail about how I’d struggled to find my seat, upon sitting down I, along with other fans of Peter Gabriel were greeted with the tender yet powerful voices of the supporting duo and later back up vocalists Jennie Abrahamson and Linnea Olsson. Two individual artists combining the classical acoustics of the cello and the synchronization of keyboard and electronic drums.
It was a beautiful way to reintroduce me to the precision of one of my idols, someone who I have visually and musically admired for most of my life and had not seen live since his Growing Up tour, at the O2 North Greenwich in 2003. Following his work at the Real World Studios, it has always been known to me of his vast musical interests, expanding his touch to every corner of the world for talented people, but being of an age where I could really appreciate that, unlike ten years ago, I sat and listened to two incredible vocalists.
Both distinctly soulful and unique in their vocal octaves; Olsson is comparable to the sweetness of Imogen Heap and Ellie Goulding, and Abrahamson almost an art in her own right.
Just when I was recovering from a wonderful performance, nostalgia kicked in. Levon Minassian came onto the stage. Levon is a renowned French-Armenian doudouk (duduk) instrumentalist, known for his collaboration on The Passion of Christ OST (2004), and Gabriel’s Secret World tour (1994). It is the latter I recall his presence from, because since childhood Secret World was one of the many VHS and DVDs I watched regularly growing up. It pulled heart strings also, because the song he played was the exact same one at the end of Secret World. I received a tremendous amount of chills down my spine, and wanted to cry.
It was only ironic when Peter ventured onto the stage, starting the show that he paraphrased that “you knew when a duduk was played correctly, because the audience would cry.”
After a long lasting cheer at his presence, Gabriel sat at the classic piano and instructed to us all the state of play with how that night would turn out; it would be placed into three parts – “like a three course meal”, the starter being a series of acoustic variants, the savory course filled with dark, creepy electronics and “if we survived”, we would be given dessert, the full So (1986) album back to back.
Within the world known songs such as Solisbury Hill (Car, 1977), Shock the Monkey (Security, 1982), Sledgehammer, Big Time (So, 1986), there were the more obscure; The Family and the Fishing Net, No Self Control (Security, 1982), Digging in the Dirt, Come Talk to Me, Secret World (Us, 1992), and two new songs, one called “Untitled” (claimed unfinished, if not for the help of longtime friend, and regular collaborator Tony Levin, bassist) played at the beginning of “PART ONE”.
Untitled is a song I’ve chosen to nickname “Home” for personal remembrance, but some have known it as “Osbut” (name referenced from a fan at the Toronto show in 2012).
There were moments throughout the show that I felt I had indeed stepped back in time, and not only with Minassian’s introduction. I imagined myself as that young child again, watching Secret World because Gabriel had the enthusiasm and encouraging temperament he expressed nearly twenty years ago.
The performances were given exceeding strength with the “old gang” of Tony Levin on bass, Manu Kache on drums, David Rhodes on guitar and David Sancious on keyboard and accordion, a group that had not truly collaborated properly live with Gabriel for many years. You would not have known it if you saw it though, because their friendship and artistic rapport shone through; they were synced to one another, playing off each other. It was truly amazing to watch Jennie and Linnea blend in, like they had always been there from the beginning.
Combining this with those memories I was in my own world, my own secret world. Confined by the seats and the notions of sitting down, I tapped my feet, my thighs and bobbed my head to the beat, that powerful, recognizable beat.
I was enthralled when the track The Tower That Ate the People (OVO, 2000) came as the starting encore track. It’s one of my absolute favourites that I cannot get enough of; I felt a true adrenaline rush. How Gabriel finished the song, was very, very significant to his early solo years and the theatrics of Genesis, particularly within the tracks The Slippermen (Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, 1975) and Secret World (Secret World Live, 1994); where he is willing himself to be engulfed by a slow moving captor, allowing himself into imprisonment.
Biko (Security, 1982) soon followed, and for me it was a brilliant come down to the night, the song speaks of the struggles, not of just Steven Biko, but for all the people who desperately want change, a revolution. It also made me feel proud on how far we, as a society have come, but admittingly still have far to go before we reach equality.
Though Peter Gabriel can be a required taste for some, there is no doubt that his eye for performance cannot be ignored. He was, and still is ahead of his time with his staging concepts. He expands himself to all genres, and in his wake draws new people in. He is one of the greatest masters of entertainment and an inspiration for many people. To witness one of his shows is a memory not wasted, it’s a treasure.
Lauren Richards-Evans (lfrichards.wordpress.com)