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Perfect Imperfection by Mr Perfectionist

Peter Gabriel's "Summer 2003 The Encore Series"


From June 07 to July 06, 2003, part two of the Growing Up U.S. tour took place. It was informally also called the Stripped Down tour because it was performed on normal stages, usually open air, e.g. in amphitheatres. Additionally, only few of the stage effects from the previous North American and European legs of the tour in 2002 and 2003 were used on this tour, too. Audience would still see the Zorb ball for Growing Up and the intimate arrangement for Mercy Street, though. There was, however, no Up-Stage anymore and the egg was left off, too. On the other hand, a couple of old acquaintances were revived. Don’t Give Up was added to the set list to provide a solo spot for Melanie after Downside Up was struck off.
Games Without Frontiers reappeared and saw Gabriel and Melanie race across the stage on Segways. The good old red phone booth returned for Come Talk To Me. The last four shows even featured San Jacinto.


caseA perfect surprise was what was announced shortly after the beginning of the Stripped Down tour: All the concerts in the United States and in Canada would be released as official untampered live CDs. Imagine that from an artist who is notorious for postproducing all his live releases in superior style!

But that’s exactly what happened. The first batch to be released were the final fifteen shows from June and July 2003, the first four were published shortly after. Now every show of the complete 2003 U.S. tour is available as a perfect official soundboard recording. All you need to get it is an internet connection, a credit card and lots of credit on the card, because every show comes in at US$25 and they’re only available via the internet (www.themusic.com). If you order all 19 shows at once, you will get two of them for free. For a short time there even was limited edition available: 150 numbered boxes made to look like a mini roadcase contained all nineteen shows, a mini edition of the tourbook and an autogram by the master himself. These boxes wered offered at US$750. After a fortnight they had sold. The individual shows are still available, as are complete sets in a simpler box including a mini tour programme with out an autogram at US$ 475 (including shipping).

Everybody has to decide for themselves whether it’s worth spending so much money for it, but you certainly get a lot for your money. It is not known whether the recordings are based on multitrack tapes, but they are mixed so well that you can single out every instrument, particularly Tony Levin’s bass. The recording covers the full stereo width, and (except for Gabriel’s voice during the introductions) no reverb has been added so that everything sound fresh and direct. The audience is generally quite low in the mix. You’ll only hear in the background when the audience sings along (e.g. during Shock The Monkey). Individual members of the audience in the front row, however, can be heard when they whistle or shout out interruptions (usually a hysterical “I love you Peter!”). This is annoying most of the times, but on occasion it is highly amusing when Peter takes up such a declaration of love and replies “I promised that we weren't gonna talk about it” (to a lady) or "I'm actually quite partial to you too!" (to a gentleman).     


case2After Games Without Frontiers he describes the Segways as “disco for geriatrics” or “dancing for the over fifties” or “toys for boys”. Sometime he also calls his daughter and himself “satisfied graduates of the George Bush school of Segway”, which is probably supposed to indicate that they are as bad at riding a Segway as George Bush is at politics.

The introduction to Signal To Noise undergoes a notable development. Peter keeps remarking that while in earlier times the British Empire dominated large areas of the world and was responsible for them, this position is at present filled by the United States. At a couple of shows there were some boos coming from the audience when he insinuated that the current U.S. administration may not be representing its people. After a while he added that these remarks were not directed against the U.S. army.

It remains to hope that the European Stripped Down tour which was announced for May 2004 will be released, too, and that it turns out a little more affordable.

Show Details:


June 07: Everybody sings "Happy Birthday" for Tony.


June 11: There is a problem before Games Without Frontiers. They try it a couple of times; it may be a problem with the Segways but it cannot be made out from the recording. Melanie forgets several lines of Don’t Give Up which she usually does know. There a a couple of scratching sounds that disturb the recording on Shock The Monkey.


June 12: Solsbury Hill: Peter misses his cue at the beginning, briefly hesitates, explains that “that’s a new bit” and continues as usual.


cdsJune 14: Red Rain is stopped after the first couple of bars. Gabriel explains that he does not hear anything on his in-ear-monitors. The problem is soon fixed and he says: “Just between us, nothing happened, this is the start of the show”. He mentions the full moon at the beginning of In Your Eyes.


June 16: Animal Nation is played because the experiment with musical bonobo apes on which the song is based took place at the local university. The scientists are present at the show and Gabriel mentions their names. Apart from that, the intro is the same; the Zawoses’ voices are sampled; the audience sings along during the song but not afterwards.


June 18: The stage has to be wiped dry before Mercy Street. The rain has created a puddle there, which fits the visual element of the boat perfectly. Tony’s parents are present. It’s their 64th (?) wedding anniversary.


June 20: Introducing Secret World, Gabriel mentions that there’s an olfactory problem on stage (i.e. it smells) because there must have been a “music-loving skunk” below the stage.


June 21: The IEM system plays up again. No Way Out is performed once more.


June 22: Instead of the guitars, the keyboards dominate Darkness.


June 24: Peter makes a slip of the tongue when he introduces Mercy Street: “it's called Anne Sexton - no it's not called Anne Sexton, it's called, where did you put those pills this morning?” The phone booth almost falls apart during Come Talk To Me. It cannot be heard on the recording, but Gabriel mentions it afterwards: "The heroic attempt to keep our phone booth intact was performed by the stage manager." When he mentions that "things tend to end where they began" during the introduction to Father, Son, someone from the audience calls out “Genesis”. Peter replies, “No, that was before that”. Another call “Back In N.Y.C.!” and Peter answers, "I think we have an offer for a return booking".


cdcoverJune 26: The band have to start over in the midst of Mercy Street: Peter has missed his cue because he was distracted by “Dickie” (Richard Chapell) fumbling around at his keyboards. Gabriel has to sneeze very audibly in the middle of Darkness. Afterwards he describes the feeling: “First it tickles and you think you can check it but then fate and The Lord decide for you.” The Blind Boys Of Alabama also performed at this festival with their own show, so that the came onstage for Sky Blue. Immediately before Father, Son the festival’s fireworks begins. You can hear it in the recording. Peter is not the least disturbed by it, but extends the lyrics: “with my dad by my side I could hold back the tide … except the fireworks".


June 28: It rains so hard that the stage has to be wiped dry after Secret World. Gabriel asks the band to play more quietly so that it’s easier to hear the audience sing along.


June 29: When Games ends, someone in the audience shouts “Giant Hogweed lives!”, to which Gabriel replies: “Giant Hogweed lives says the man”. They are having problems with the IEM system. Peter describes the transmission unit he is carrying “our cardiac pacemakers” and continues “yes, it could be called a Musical Box”. Mercy Street is interrupted because Gabriel is lost. "There's a pulse we follow, and I screwed up!", he explains. Solsbury Hill is interrupted because the keyboards cannot be heard and the IEM system fails yet again. Gabriel calls it a “Solsbury interruptus”. The problem is not solved so easily, and Peter plays the only Here Comes The Flood of the Stripped Down tour to bridge the time. The band then play a complete Solsbury Hill.


June 30: Animal Nation replaces Shock The Monkey. After Don’t Give Up Gabriel remarks on his daughter: “Nepotism works.”


July 01: Both Animal Nation and Shock The Monkey are performed.


July 02: The Zorb ball is flat, so Gabriel stops Growing Up, clambers out of the ball and introduces the Orange People while the ball is reinflated. Then he re-enters the ball and the song is played from the beginning. San Jacinto is played for the first time on this tour, and Gabriel says so. During the band introduction he mentions for the first time that Melanie is also a photographer and writer. 


July 04: Gabriel tells a brief version of the well-known story introducing San Jacinto.


July 06: Peter almost exclusively speaks French in Montreal. Rachel uses the wrong keyboard settings in the beginning of Digging In The Dirt and changes them after a couple of bars. At the end of In Your Eyes Peter thanks everybody who was involved in the tour. He particularly mentions Robert Lepage who is probably present at the show.


by Volker Warncke, 2003

translation by Martin Klinkhardt


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