Peter Gabriel is currently touring to celebrate the 25th anniversary of So, which has been remastered and will be available on October 23 in multiple formats. On Saturday Oct 6, he and his supporting band played the Hollywood Bowl, a concert performance that will long be remembered for one brief moment.
Before the show began, Gabriel announced the show was broken into three parts like a meal, with an appetizer, the main course, and dessert. The appetizer was a short, acoustic set of four songs. Showing great confidence, likely bolstered by the fact that he was going to give the people what they wanted later, Gabriel opened the show with “OBUT,” a song he revealed was incomplete. But it wasn’t obvious beyond the sparse arrangement of Gabriel on keyboards and his old friend Tony Levin on bass.
That was followed up by “Come Talk to Me,” a song made more poignant by the young woman sitting behind me. Before the show started, she and her boyfriend sat in silence for a long while. She tried to engage him, but he snapped at her, stating he had no interest because he could never do right in her eyes. She didn’t like what he was wearing, she didn’t like where they had dinner, and he knew full well she wouldn’t like the subject he brought up, so why bother. During “Come Talk to Me,” she leaned forward in her seat. In a soft whisper, she sang into my ear lyrics begging her boyfriend to “please talk to me.” I turned my head and could see her eyes welled up with tears.
After a wonderful alternative versions of “Shock the Monkey” and “Family Snapshot,” the band went right into the electric portion of the evening with my all-time favorite Gabriel song, “Digging in the Dirt,” an intense song whose arrangement reflects the intense emotions of a a relationship disintegrating. Other than “Solsbury Hill,” the remainder of this section was filled with deep cuts like “The Family and the Fishing Net” and “No Self Control.”
The dessert section found Gabriel performing his greatest-selling album, So, in sequence. After “This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)”, the stage was lit with dark, blue lights. Gabriel left his keyboards and took center stage. A roadie dressed in black shirt and a ball cap brought Gabriel a boom-box, which is a cute reference to Lloyd Dobler from Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything…. The movie has carved out a special place in the hearts of many, and anyone who disagrees would have had their doubts laid to rest this evening.
Then, when roadie hit the lights, audience members in the front began screaming. He took off his cap and gave a respectful bow to Gabriel, who introduces “Mr. John Cusack.” People all over began shouting in approval, and Cusack quickly scampers off. It’s a moment that will stick with those in attendance for quite a while. Count me as one.
The band delivered a rousing performance augmented by a glorious light show. After a quick break, they returned for a brief encore that concluded with “Biko,” the rousing anthem in tribute to the murdered black South African anti-apartheid activist, written in 1980 before it was cool to be against apartheid.
Even without the cameo, Peter Gabriel’s Back to Front tour was an impressive night of musicianship and artistry that revealed the talents of the performers involved. One of the concert highlights of the year.