- Peter Gabriel
- October 5, Planet Hollywood
I caught Peter Gabriel’s 1993 Phoenix tour stop, and came to assume I’d never see him perform again. The legendary British rocker has spent two decades largely out of sight, releasing just one album of new material (in 2002) and declining offers to bring back the original Genesis lineup he fronted from 1967 to 1975. Yet strangely, Friday night found him in Las Vegas, playing to a mostly full Theatre for the Performing Arts.
Gabriel strode unassumingly to the mic with the house lights up, then left them shining for his three-act production’s first part, designed to simulate a band rehearsal session. All stripped down, “Come Talk to Me” and “Shock the Monkey” might not have achieved full impact, but the spareness made it easy to evaluate the condition of Gabriel’s warm, gravelly voice. He had two women along to help with the high stuff, but the 62-year-old climbed his own range when it mattered most—and delivered far more often than not.
Part 2 kicked in midway through the haunting lone-gunman anthem “Family Snapshot,” screens and strobes triggering dramatically as the room finally went black. The concert’s electric middle third also saw Gabriel unloose his musicians: guitarist David Rhodes, bassist Tony Levin, keyboardist David Sancious and drummer Manu Katché, the same band that toured behind classic record So in 1986 and ’87. The group rejoiced in its reunion, sounding sharp and powerful and dancing in choreographed (and sometimes hilarious) unison at points throughout the set.
Twenty years on, Us cuts “Digging in the Dirt” and “Secret World” felt fresh as ever, and 1977 single “Solsbury Hill” sent the mostly older crowd to its feet. But the true early highlight was “The Family and the Fishing Net,” a seven-minute epic—featuring roadies in masks and lyrics about headless chickens—reminiscent of Gabriel’s early days as a proggy oddball in colorful costume.
An enveloping rendition of “Red Rain” signaled the start of the show’s final section, a start-to-finish treatment of an album that actually deserves it. “Sledgehammer,” “Big Time” and the Say Anything-memorialized “In Your Eyes” drew the loudest responses, but So stays seminal on the strength of its deeper cuts, and those were made extra memorable by Gabriel’s theatrical live treatments. Duet “Don’t Give Up” saw him co-star in an expressive mini-drama with Jennie Abrahamson (who handled Kate Bush’s female vocal). The road crew returned, this time wearing gas masks, and stood silently for the eerie “We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37).” And “Mercy Street” found Gabriel flat on his back, giving the spotlight over to the song’s powerful message.
After all that, an encore version of “Biko” felt slightly anticlimactic—particularly in comparison to the ’93 version I witnessed—but that hardly mattered. All these years later, Gabriel remains the rare star capable of expertly transforming rock show into concert experience.
"Come Talk to Me"
"Shock the Monkey"
"Digging in the Dirt"
"The Family and the Fishing Net"
"No Self Control"
Part 3: So
"Don't Give Up"
"That Voice Again"
"We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)"
"This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)"
"In Your Eyes"
"The Tower That Ate People"