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Growing Up Live In Europe

Peter Gabriel's first European tour in nine years

 

When the U.S. tour ended in mid-December, fans all across Europe were eagerly hoping that Gabriel would soon present the unusual stage construction on the other side of the Atlantic, too. European tour dates started appearing in January. It was only the largest halls that were booked because it had to accommodate the heavy Up stage construction so that less concerts were played than for the Secret World tour ten years before. Seven shows were scheduled in Germany, five in Italy, but merely four in Great Britain, three in France and one single lonely show in Scandinavia. That was not a whole lot of tickets for a whole lot of fans, so the attendance at the shows was very high. The second Wembley show for example was only mentioned as an option at first, but it soon went up for pre-sale, while exactly the opposite thing happened in New York: Two shows were offered, but the second one was soon cancelled.

Let us follow the twelve trucks that carried the stage equipment all across our continent. Just like ten years before, they began in the far north:


Stockholm, Globen-Arena, April 24, 2003:

The Globen Arena is a very impressive venue already from the outside. It is a huge white dome that resembles an oversized radar station. There were therefore absolutely no problems fitting the stage into the place – the ceiling certainly was high enough. Unfortunately, only half the tickets had been sold, despite Stockholm carrying the proud name of official European Cultural Capital 2003. The venue is seating-only and the comfy and relaxed atmosphere is increased by the fact that the floor was covered in carpet.
The audience were not quite as hysteric as in southern countries. In Scandinavia, people like to show their appreciation by applauding warmly before and after songs and enjoying the music in the meantime.

mercyThe music was not as loud as it had been on the U.S. tour – I was sitting three rows from the stage, but I did not need earplugs – a first! In the United States things would have become too loud for unprotected ears at least from Red Rain onwards. Gabriel’s Swedish has not really improved since 1993 so that he pronounced only the usual first sentence to introduce Here Comes The Flood in more or less (less, actually) intelligible Swedish. He then switched to English. The performance was as unobtrusive as the audience. It was obvious that the band had not had much time to rehearse – they had arrived in Stockholm only two days before. The show nevertheless ran more smoothly than the first US shows in Chicago because the stage used for the European leg of the tour was the same one they used the year before. Only the ‘standard’ set list was played, plus two encores. Many fans thought that they probably wanted to make sure everything was still working as before. Alas, the set list hardly ever changed during the European tour so that that idea proved wrong…


Hamburg, Color Line Arena, April 26, 2003:

In Stockholm we had wonderful sunshine. Hamburg greeted us with its typical rainy weather. Our arrival at the AOL Arena was marked by traffic jams and a mud pit camouflaged as a parking lot. Ten minutes after we finally made it into the venue Peter begins to play Jetzt Kommt Die Flut – an altogether apt comment. It is a big venue and it seemed to be quite full. The arena itself had no seating (this was true for all German venues) so that the atmosphere was better than in Stockholm without, however, reaching boiling point. The performance was a bit livelier, but marred by little inaccuracies. Sledgehammer in particular was quite chaotic because the power line for Peter’s light suit would get tangled in the other cables on the stage despite two Orange Men continually striving to avoid that. Gabriel read all the introductions in German from a text sheet; this led to a couple of funny moments when he had trouble pronouncing a word properly. Sometimes it took him a couple of attempts and friendly help from the audience. His favourite expression must have been “Husky-Hunde” [husky dogs] where the pronounced the “u” in “husky” the same way as the “u” in Hunde [i.e. as in “too”] so that it seemed funny even to himself. At least it proves that he, as opposed to dear Uncle Phil, does not need a (semi-)phonetic transcription.


Berlin, Velodrom, April 27, 2003:

The Berlin Tempodrom was a welcome change after the giant venues of Stockholm and Hamburg. It is much smaller and has a rather low ceiling, which made for a very comfortable atmosphere. The sound was delightfully direct and free from echoes even in the back rows. Because of the low ceiling the Up stage was hung lower than usual so that the “egg” that is lowered during Secret World would hover a mere metre [3.5ft] above the stage. This meant that Gabriel could not stand below it and stick his head into it like he did on other shows, but he simply lay down beneath it.
Both audience and performance were much better in Berlin than in Hamburg; there were hardly any obvious mistakes. Best of all, the crowd spontaneously took up the chant from Animal Nation and kept on singing it, so that Gabriel sung the names of the musicians he proceeded to introduce in the very same melody. That sure improved the already very good mood in front of and on the stage!


gabe1Leipzig, Sportarena, April 29, 2003:

The band took the superfast express train ICE to travel from Berlin to Leipzig. Apparently, they were noticed by the odd fan who were then given all the autograms. We were not so lucky, but Leipzig is a beautiful city anyway. The Sportarena is a new middle-sized building in the outskirts of Leipzig. The show was just like Berlin, the quality of both the performance and the audience were comparable.


Oberhausen, König Pilsner Arena, April 30, 2003:

Yet another arena. The special thing about the Oberhausen Arena is that it is not a full circle. There are not stands on the side where the stage would normally be. But the floor provided enough space, of course, so that the circular stage was surrounded by the audience.


Rotterdam, Ahoy, May 02, 2003:

Well, the Ahoy has been around for a while, and there are lots of stories about bad acoustics, extreme security and whatnot… But it’s been renovated, people are treated the same as elsewhere and the echo is acceptable because the venue is not that big. Beware, however of the seating! Rows are numbered from top to bottom, so that my row one seats were just below the roof. Still, the sound there was remarkably good. It was Richard Evans’ birthday that day so everybody sang Happy Birthday when it was his turn in the band introduction.


Brussels, Forest National, May 03, 2003:

This evening marked the first change in the set list since Stockholm. Come Talk To Me was added in the middle of the show. This must have been because of the terrific audience whose fantastic mood had a visible effect on the band. As is his wont on Belgian concerts, Gabriel introduced his songs partly in French, partly in English and sometimes even in Flemish. This was the best show so far on the European tour!


Munich, Olympiahalle, May 05, 2003:

The last show before they move on to Italy. The weather already was very Italian, with 30°C and sunny blue skies. Both the performance and the audience were not quite “Italian” yet, but it certainly was one of the better German shows. Gabriel’s camera broke down during The Barry Williams Show so that an Orange Man filmed the audience with his own camera. A couple of very bright spots were trained on the audience when Gabriel in mid-song called “Let’s get some lights on here!”. The set list did not include Come Talk To Me.


Paris, Bercy, May 14, 2003:

This night everything was just right, and we received the full package: Both Sevara and the Blind Boys of Alabama performed for about 25 minutes each. The main show included Come Talk To Me again, but the best addition was that Youssou N’Dour came on for In Your Eyes, so that song featured him and Sevara and the Blind Boys. This made the song about one minute longer than usual, but it was wonderful to see how Peter and Youssou embraced back to back and swayed gently from side to side (a ritual that is known since the So tour). It also reminds one of the Yoga scene Peter Gabriel describes before Father, Son, where he and his father use each other’s body for some stretching exercises. The audience was all one could have wished for on a concert: listening attentively during the songs and overwhelmingly loud and enthusiastic between numbers. Of course the atmosphere was great among the crowd, too, during In Your Eyes. This show topped even Brussels!


Zürich, May 15, 2003:

Introductions were made in German, French and Italian. However, none of the three versions seem to have worked out so that probably no one understood everything. The rest was a matter of routine.


Manchester, MENArena, May 18, 2003:

Now for England. Quite a change of mentality in the audience compared to France. All concerts in England were seating only. The audience in Manchester, for example, were strictly forbidden to stand up or move into the aisle until the encores. But most people remained seated anyway, at least until Solsbury Hill began. At the end of Animal Nation the audience by and by began to pick up the chant, but when Gabriel said thank you and began to introduce the band, everybody fell silent. It almost appeared as if that was intentional because Peter made no attempt to introduce the band in the singing fashion he used on previous concerts of this tour. Since Sevara did not perform that night The Blind Boys were the only opening act. Sevara’s parts in In Your Eyes were performed on the flute by Richard Evans. It was an interesting musical experiment but it did not sound as lively as it did with Sevara’s voice.


rhodesBirmingham, NEC, May 19, 2003:

The National Exhibition Centre is basically a trade fair hall turned concert hall by the installation of seating rows. The sound was surprisingly good, that is, if you were close enough to the stage. The atmosphere during the show must have been the anticlimax of the European tour. This became obvious when Gabriel tried to get the audience to participate during Animal Nation, then suddenly stopped and said “To be honest, I think this is pathetic!” People at least made an effort to sing along after that remark. Peter still began his introduction of the Orange People with the words: "Earlier, while you were slumbering, you may have noticed some orange people...".
The apathy in the audience had one advantage: The gap between the a capella intro and Mercy Street proper was not filled with applause so that we could enjoy all details of this song. A final positive surprise: The Blind Boys came back on stage for In Your Eyes. Their admittedly darker voices made for a fine and harmonic addition to the song.


London, Wembley Arena, May 11 and 22, 2003:

From the outside, Wembley Arena is among the ugliest venues I have ever seen. So what, it’s all about what’s going on inside, isn’t it? And what went on inside was very respectable indeed – everybody was in top form, great atmosphere, great performance. Since both Sevara and The Blind Boys had opened the show, they were all there for In Your Eyes. This night Gabriel introduced Melanie expressly as his daughter for the first time on the European tour, something he had left until the last show on the U.S. leg of the tour. There was a V.I.P. area for friends and families of band members; among them Annie Callingham and Bill Bruford were noticed. Peter also mentioned that some relatives of band members were present.
The second Wembley show had been added shortly after pre-sale began for the first night, and it seems it was worthwhile the time. The atmosphere was even better with a good attendance rate (albeit not as good as the night before). Come Talk To Me made an appearance as an encore, and Gabriel dedicated it, as usual, to those people who were there for both nights. It made for a worthy end of the England tour, even though there is nothing extraordinary to add in comparison to other shows.

This night would have been the end of the European tour, but because of the high demand in tickets a couple more concerts were added so that the band could enjoy the enthusiasm of German and French audiences once more. The new place for the final night became Barcelona.


Stuttgart, May 24, 2003:

Back to the Animal Nation chant, though the audience took it up only by and by. Peter skipped a line during the More Than This intro, but he immediately noticed, called it a “big fuck-up” and started over a few lines before. Come Talk To Me became the standard second encore for the rest of the tour.


Köln, Kölnarena, May 25, 2003:

This was the German show with the best atmosphere, at least in the chronicler’s opinion. The band has so much more routine playing the songs and they evidently felt very much at home. The capacity crowd sang the Animal Nation chant, as did Peter when introducing the band. Come Talk To Me was played again. Peter was not confused by an only too noticable wrong note during Hier Kommt Die Flut.

Lyon and Nice were further specimens of the typical French atmosphere – the air was burning! In Nice, the stage was set up at the end of the hall and the screens were hanging next to each other in front of the stage.


sledgePoznan was the only open air gig on this tour, in a full-size football stadium. The weather was, fortunately, very summerly. There was a great atmosphere and the Poles were surprisingly treated to Biko as the final encore. The band had rehearsed that song for the first time that same afternoon, but is came across great - and it is not too difficult to play.


Barcelona, Palau San Jordi, June 01, 2003:

The venue is gigantic. One side is a sheer concrete wall so that the sound on that side produced lots of echoes. The atmosphere war fantastic, almost wild. There were a couple of extra gags – one would expect that to happen on the final show of a tour. The audience gave an inflatable shark to the band on stage with which Melanie then shared the boat for Mercy Street; some people in the audience wore giant sombreros. There were, however, no pranks played to the band by the crew, though that is not unusual on final shows.

Gabriel spoke a little bit Spanish. In the beginning he even said a couple of sentences in Catalan, the local Spanish dialect, before he switched to brief English introduction. He even left out the Father, Son story.

There were only a couple of days for the band and the crew to relax and recover before the Growing Up tour moved on to another U.S. leg with a simplified stage and another nineteen open air performances.

by Volker Warncke

translated by Martin Klinkhardt

photos by Sabine Zindler


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