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    You Are What You Watch

    The Peter Gabriel Show - North America 2002


    The music world had to wait for more than eight years before Peter Gabriel finally went on a tour again. There were a couple of special live gigs in between, but they could not replace a sophisticated full-scale Gabriel show. Peter himself made sure to make the European fans in particular excited about the new material. Three weeks before Up was released he first (and not really confidently) presented the new songs at the 20th anniversary of Virgin Germany. Then he played a number of warm-up concerts which also featured songs that were rarely or not at all performed on the tour proper. All this ended in October and Peter Gabriel’s band travelled to America. At that time, no shows on Germany were planned. The first three concerts in Mexico City took place without the new stage. Dress rehearsals took place in Quebec in front of an audience of a thousand people before the curtain finally went up in front of a capacity crowd in Chicago on November 12, 2002.


    ticket Prices

    Concerts in Northern America are usually more expensive than in Europe, but the explosion of ticket prices was noticed everywhere. In the U.S. one had to pay up to US$140 for top seats, while tickets for the “nose-bleeding” seats still cost US$45. Things are sligtly different in Canada. While the ticket prices were the same, the exchange rate was better (EUR 1 = CDN$ 1.50 [while 1 Euro would only get you approx. 1 US$; translator’s note] ). That made the tickets much more affordable to people such as writers for the German Genesis fanclub. The locals did not care much either way – to them, the ticket are just as bloody expensive as for their American counterparts. All venues were seating only. A commercial for the tour was broadcast on American TV. It can (could?) be watched on the official homepage.

    Merchandising was extremely expensive, too. The money you’d have to shell out for a simple t-shirt could have bought you high-end trekking equipment. The tour program cost $35, you’d have to pay $45 for a t-shirt, $60 for a long-sleeved shirt and a special-cut v-neck shirt cost $70. You could also buy a vest for $80 or a fleeceshirt for $175 (!). If you still had money left, you could buy a poster ($15), a keyring or a series of buttons ($10 each). The price for the UP winter cap was the most extreme. A cap like that can be bought for $5 in any department store (without the logo, of course), but with the logo it cost $50. At least one could pay by credit card everywhere.


    Venues

    The Growing Up tour took place in large arenas with a capacity of usually more than 10,000 people. Many venues in North America are bigger than in Europe and can seat up to 20,000 or more people. One got the impression that the shows everywhere were not sold out. The Chicago and Montreal shows, where Peter performed twice because of the huge demand in tickets, made clear that tickets for the upper galleries had not been offered at all – the fans would have seen only the upper side of the skystage. Most concerts drew a big audience, but attendance occasionally dropped to 60 percent. Fans were most enthusiastic in New York (Madison Square Garden), Montreal (Centre Bell), Quebec City (La Colisée) and Los Angeles (Forum).


    01 The stage

    Like Phil Collins in 1997, Peter toured with a centre stage. The advantage is obvious: The stage is surrounded by the audience, the view is theoretically better everywhere and the venue can seat more people. The outer part of Peter’s stage can rotate, as opposed to the central area of the stage on which Ged Lynch’s drum kit is placed. That alone would not be enough to make it a Peter Gabriel concert or a Robert Lepage stage, though. Below the ceiling of the venue there is a round kind of platform construction almost as large in diameter as the inner area of ground stage. This sky stage, or Up-stage, carries several elements of the lightshow and something in it is covered by white cloth. During the tour a couple of elements were changed. Video screens were added on the head and foot end of the halls, as was a show part for Downside-Up. More about that later.


    Supporting Peter

    None other than the legendary, Grammy-decorated and Grammy-nominated gospel singers of The Blind Boys Of Alabama supported Peter on the North American leg of the Growing Up tour. Their album Spirit Of The Century marked their grand comeback on the Real World label. It is no coincidence that Peter would choose The Blind Boys, because they were to return to the stage several times during Peter’s own show.
    After the terrific Blind Boys there was pure world music. Dr Hukwe Zawose and his brother from Tanzania tried the patience of the audience. There can be no doubt that they are extraordinary musicians, but their music sounds very abstract to Western ears. Zawose and his brother still did their best to excite the audience about their music. They played exotic instruments, wore elaborate clothes and walked barefoot on stage. Their last number had much more rhythm than the previous songs and reconciled the audience. The Zawose brothers would return to the stage during Peter’s show, too.


    "What you'll hear is a mixture of new and old" - The Songs

    Peter Gabriel played a set tailor-made for the stage show, with frequent variations both in the order and the selection of songs. The following set list mentions all songs in the approximate order in which they were played. The notes also mention at which shows a song was not played or played for the first time.


    Here Comes The Flood

    Peter enters the stage alone in dark blue light and plays a piano version of the classic. The stage begins to rotate during the second verse. Peter is wearing a microphone headset, but he sings into the microphone set up on his keyboards. There is a folder on his keyboard that contains the lyrics. Peter played this song twice as the final encore (in Mexico City on November 04, 2002, and in Chicago on November 12, 2002). It was not played in Mexico City on November 03.


    pg Darkness

    The first notes of Darkness ring out without particular announcement while the band take their places. The drumkit is located in the middle of the stage. It is covered on a house-shaped tent that represents the “house in the woods”. Rachel Z stand approximately opposite Peter. Both have turned their back to the audience when they’re playing the keyboards. Tony Levin, Richard Evans and David Rhodes occasionally walk about a bit without ever straying to far from their equipment. Peter walks across the stage and whispers “consequence”, here we go! During the song Peter walks here and there and sings into his hand microphone as well as his headset. When the lyrics reach the line “When I allow it to be” the whole venue is flooded with white light, while there are threatening strobe light effects during the aggressive verses.
    Darkness was the second song at every show. Only in Mexico City on November 03, 2002 was Darkness played as the opening song.


    Red Rain

    Before this song Peter would announce that "It's good to be back, we will play a mixture of new and old, this next one fits the last category, it's called Red Rain". Big applause everywhere and the stage is lit in red. It is a powerful version of the song, perhaps in a different mood from the original’s, but a professional rendition indeed. Red Rain always followed Darkness.

     
    Secret World

    Peter played this fan favourite in a slightly different version. The song is much stronger than on the previous tour. While one enjoys a beautiful song during the verses, there is a loud bang after the third verse, the whole band begins to rock and Peter dances across the stage circling – a process which is repeated after “shh, listen”. On this tour, the song ends with vocals (“making it up in our secret world”). Something egg-shaped is lowered from the ceiling while the song is performed. Secret World always followed Red Rain.


    My Head Sounds Like That

    A fine version of the new song. At the end, Peter stands in the middle of the stage and the egg is lowered so that his head disappears in it. This song was played after Secret World on the first three shows in Mexico City, at the dress rehearsal in Quebec and on the opening night in Chicago. During the Mexico City show on November 04, The Barry Williams Show was played between Secret World and My Head Sounds Like That. The song was struck off the set list after the first show in Chicago.

     
    Sky Blue

    Before the song begins, The Blind Boys Of Alabama sit down below the egg while Peter announces the song. He stays at the keyboards for the first two verses. During the third verse Peter walks along the outer part of the stage which begins to rotate against the direction in which he moves. When his vocal part ends, he leaves the stage with Melanie while the Blind Boys’s platform is elevated somewhat. They bring this song to a breathtaking finale.
    Sky Blue was played on every night from November 12, 2002 onwards. It was not played at the dress rehearsal because the Blind Boys were absent. Sky Blue was performed without the Blind Boys at the first show in Mexico City.

     
    Downside-Up

    Peter and Melanie both sang this song though neither of them does on the original recording. A melodious drum rhythm was added to the verses. Though her voice is no match for Elizabeth Frazier’s, Melanie still does a good job. The skystage is lowered to some 10ft over the earth stage. After “pull me in” the Orange Men (i.e. the crew) come up on stage and put up ladders. Peter and Melanie step onto them, hook in their safety belts and begin to walk around the skystage upside down (or downside up?) – and they sing on all the while. This show element met with enthusiastic applause. When the lyrics reach “slipping into the unknown” Peter and Melanie stop walking and just hang there horizontally in their belts and the song ends.
    Downside Up was played at every show. The upside-down walk was not performed at the first shows. It was premièred on November 18, 2002, not done on November 19 and became a fixed part of the show from November 21, 2002 onwards. 


    The Barry Williams Show

    The skystage was lowered all the way down so that it sat on the center stage. Peter then stepped onto the skystage which is, basically, a circle with railings and a whole in the middle through which the egg was lowered for Secret World. There’s a camera on wheels on the skystage. Peter begins with the words "Some people say, you are what you eat. I say - you are what you watch - and you watch The Barry Williams Show" – and we’re off. There’s a white curtain forming a column in the middle of the sky stage. Peter’s images are projected onto it. One can also watch his own camera work on the big screens. While he is singing, he films himself, the audience and the band. When he reached the lines “my daughter’s selling sex” and “I love my daughter’s rapist” he usually filmed Melanie who, cheekily, would put out her tongue at him. The live performance was very strong and rocked much better than the CD version. The Barry Williams Show was a fixed item on the set list. With the exception of the shows on November 3 and 4, 2002, it followed Downside Up.


    More Than This

    Peter announces More Than This while the skystage is pulled up again. He explains that this song was about things that are influenced by the moon, e.g. the menstrual cycle (which he admits to not knowing much about). At the end of the song a moon appears below the skystage with the appropriate lights on it.
    More Than This was always played after The Barry Williams Show at the centre-stage shows.


    pg6 Shock The Monkey

    Familiar sounds, a dancing Gabriel, thundering drums – a powerful Shock The Monkey jumps out of the speakers. And Gabriel did it, too – the old familiar Shock jump. So it’s still possible at 52. Gabriel boisterously runs across the stage and at several times stands in front of the audience, provoking them. David Rhodes would dance with him, as did Tony Levin. Shock The Monkey was first performed directly after Secret World in Montreal on November 29, 2002. It was a big surprise there (and in Quebec City on November 30). In Toronto (Dec 02, 2002) and Detroit the band played this number after More Than This while Los Angeles heard it after Digging In The Dirt. It was the second encore in Oakland, San Jose and Seattle.


    Mercy Street

    A boat is placed on the stage and the band assembles around it. Peter Gabriel tells the well-known story of the song and the band sing an a capella intro before they all return to their instruments and begin to play the song. Melanie sits down in the boat, and the outer stage begins to rotate again. Near the end Peter steps onto the rotating part of the stage and follows the boad. Richard Evans plays the flute on this song.
    Mercy Street always followed More Than This (except for the shows in Toronto and Detroit).


    No Way Out

    The song remains close to its studio version, though the dynamics are much stronger live and the aggressivenes of the chorus comes out. Gabriel struck this song off the setlist after the shows in Mexico City. It was not performed on any centre-stage shows.


    Digging In The Dirt

    A familiar beat and a “Digging!” by Peter… Digging In The Dirt is one of the strongest performances of the night. Several times Peter asks the audience to sing along. After “I got hurt” the stage is lit in hectic spots and Peter hunts his fellow musicians. During the song the cloth covering is removed from the ball that had represented a moon earlier on (during Mercy Street). It uncovers a Zorb ball in purple lights, and its hour was soon to come.


    The Tower That Ate People

    This song was performed much like the version included on the Red Planet soundtrack. Very intense, very strong, further proof that songs can grow in stature when they’re played live. Unfortunately, this song was performed in Mexico City on November 03, 2002, only and struck off the setlist for the rest of the tour.


    gu Growing Up

    The climax of the show certainly is Growing Up. Gabriel stands in the centre of the stage and the ball is lowered onto him. He finally vanishes in it and begins to sing after he has brought the ball into starting position. After the intro he begins to roll across the stage in the ball and begins to bump up and down during the verses. Tony Levin’s bass guitars often had to suffer from it. Peter rolls across the stage without external help. He stays in the ball for the whole song. The audience was ecstatic about the performance.
    Growing Up was always played after Digging In The Dirt at the centre-stage shows.



    Animal Nation

    Growing Up was a demanding performance, so Peter needed some time to catch his breath. The crew would use the opportunity to deflate and stow away the ball. Peter talks about his experiments with bonobo monkeys and how they inspired him to this song. Animal Nation was released on the Wild Thornberries soundtrack and will be released on Peter’s next album IO. This made it the second song (after Downside Up) that was almost completely unknown to the North-American audience.
    Musical support was provided by Dr Zawose and his brother who came back and chirped on their exotic instruments. They can also be heard on the studio version. During this long song Peter always had the audience sing along.
    Animal Nation was always played after Growing Up.


    Solsbury Hill

    Before this song Peter would introduce the band. The roaring applause for Tony Levin even before Peter said anything about him was remarkable. Tony is incredibly popular in North America.
    The first chords of Solsbury Hill tear everyone from their seats. A bike leans on Peter’s keyboard and he soon cycles around the stage while he sings. During the last verse the stage rotates against the direction Peter’s riding in. Solsbury Hill was always played at this point in the show.


    Sledgehammer

    On the last two tours one had the impression that Sledgehammer was less than perfect. A group of brass instruments would have been good. This time, though, there’s no need for them because Sledgehammer rocks better than ever before. A long intro gives Peter the opportunity to put on a jacket studded with little lamps that blink at random intervals. He constantly has an Orange Man follow him around to sort out the electric cable. And he still does his legendary sexual innuendo movement at the chorus. The song is full of power and made people everywhere ecstatic. After all, it is and remains probably forever his very greatest hit – and not at all a bad one to boot!
    Sledgehammer was the next to last song of the regular set at all concerts.


    Signal To Noise

    Okay, so the strings and Nusrat are sampled. David Rhodes’ guitar sounds return, however, though they were not included in the album version. That’s why Signal To Noise has far more drive live than on Up. One is reminded of the song’s première in 1996. Signal To Noise is a brilliant ending. After the final “see them transmit, you know that’s it” [sic] the musicians, headed by Peter, leave the stage (they actually go down beneath it) until only Ged Lynch is left hitting the skins. During the whole song he is surrounded by a white cloth that descends from the sky stage. In the end the sky stage is lowered to the floor and Ged Lynch vanishes behind it. The concert is over, for the time being. After this emotional ending one suddenly feels left alone.


    In Your Eyes

    A Secret World tour Déjà vu: The skystage is raised while the first sound of the song ring out. One can see Dr Zawose. The band plays a version quite similar to the one performed in 1993/94. Somehow this all feels like Sussudio. As a fan, you can’t stand to hear it anymore, but people are ecstatic at every concert. In Your Eyes is admittedly superior to Sussudio. And it is just too established as the first encore. It was performed at every show.


    Come Talk To Me

    Celtic sound, then Peter’s voice “Ah please talk to me” – Come Talk To Me was played in a different version than on the Secret World Tour. It was a straighter rock version, mainly because of Ged Lynch’s radically different drum style. It still is no dance song, but there’s lots of drive in it and certainly a favourite with the fans. A strong performance. After the final verse Peter runs across the stage once more, while he and Melanie sing at each other during the chorus. It is quite ironic that Come Talk To Me is about the communication problems between Peter and Melanie more than a decade ago.
    In Chicago, Come Talk To Me was part of the regular set, later it was occasionally played as the second encore, namely in Minneapolis, Cleveland, Washington, Montreal I, Toronto and at the final concert in Vancouver.


    Family Snapshot

    More than twenty years after the song was published there is another solid version of Family Snapshot. The middle section is more dynamic, but at times the song seems to fall apart, as if it was not quite perfected during rehearsals. Still, it’s a classic and a crowd-pleaser.
    Family Snapshot was occasionally played as an encore: In Chicago (Nov 14), East Rutherford, New York, Boston, Montreal (Nov 29), Quebec City, Detroit and Los Angeles.


    Father, Son

    Peter performs this song on his own with some unobtrusive support by Tony Levin on bass. Peter explains the well-known background of the song. Father, Son was often used to end the concert, except for the first show in Chicago when it was the opening song and for Denver and Detroit when it was left off because Peter had problems with his voice. Father, Son was not performed in Boston and the first show in Mexico City.


    "This was a technical Fuck-Up!" - anecdotes from the Growing Up Tour 2002

    Peter on tour also means problems and mistakes. Everybody knows about the trouble he has singing the lyrics in the right order. It’s not only human mistakes, but also technical problems and special guests that turned several concerts into an extraordinary experience.


    gutGeneral

    He could not help it: Even in Munich and at the warm-up shows Tony Levin would take pictures of the show with his digital camera. You can see many of them on his website. There often was the peculiar situation that the band would play The Barry Williams Show while Tony would jump across the stage with his camera and without his bass. Occasionally it was an Orange Man who took pictures.

    At times there was confusion on stage, particularly when the musicians would move around during lively songs such as Secret World, Shock The Monkey and Growing Up. They sometimes forgot where they were standing and David Rhodes found himself at Tony Levin’s instruments. Richard Evans did not always recognize his instruments either.


    The Zorb Ball: It is the core of the show. Peter can move across the stage without any outside help. On occasion he would flatten bits of the stage equipment. Rachel Z’s hair was standing on end because the ball’s static charges. Tony Levin had to save his camera and instruments from the approaching Peter.

    Peter uses both a microphone head-set and a hand-held microphone. The band was equipped with head-set microphones for backing vocals. Two microphones made for lots of peculiar events with Peter. You see him walk across the stage during Darkness and not always does his rise his hand-held mike in time for his cue – no problem because he’s singing through the head-set. He also crosses the stage during In Your Eyes and holds the microphone up to Tony’s mouth for the deep “in your eye”. Tony, of course, has a microphone head-set. In Toronto this made for a big mess-up: Peter reached Tony too late, Tony sings into his microphone and Peter waved about with his hand-held microphone. It may have looked like playback from afar. That’s Peter for you. It’s better to have two microphones than one. It’s also better to have the lyrics at your keyboard. One wonders why he keeps singing them out in the wrong order, though.


    The tour start in Chicago

    There were massive problem at U.S. immigration for Dr Zawose, which meant that the Zawoses could not perform. This was therefore the only audience who could admire the Blind Boys during Animal Nation and In Your Eyes.

       

    Minneapolis, Target Center

    When the equipment had to be dismantled and rebuilt for the first time under pressure, problems occurred. First of all the stage was not ready on time which meant that Peter came onstage only at 11p.m. The PA failed several times during Sky Blue. The band played on as if nothing had happened. The problem grew more severe during The Barry Williams show. Peter stopped te show afterwards and explained  that "OK, we're gonna shut down the PA. We've got a little bit of a technical problem, we're gonna be right back in 30 seconds. Don't go away!" During this break the band played an acoustic jam until the PA was up online. Immediately after that, Peter missed his cue for More Than This and stopped the song for a restart. “This is fuck-up #2”, he dryly remarked. When he introduced the band after Mercy Street and Melanie in particular, a fan shouted out “I love you Melanie”, to which Peter cooly replied “Shh! Her father can hear that!” The PA failed again during Sledgehammer. The audience would sing along loudly so that it appeared that the drop-outs were intentional. The effect was not at all negative. In the middle of the song Peter said that “Maybe sometimes we have a PA.” There were also audible distortions of the sound during Signal To Noise. The PA had failed its first test.


    New York, Madison Square Garden

    This concert is one of the best of the whole tour. Peter said that "It's great to be back in N.Y.C." which led to loud applause but, as was expected, not to a journey back to the Lamb album. He changed the Sledgehammer line “You can have an aeroplane flying” to “you can have a bomberplane flying” – certainly referring to George Bush whom he had acidly criticised for his Iraq policy several weeks before when he had said that "I believe that any action should be taken by the UN and not by cowboy states led by presidents who weren't elected."


    Montreal, Centre Bell

    The first concert was an almost total chaos. The crew finished building the stage just a few minutes before 7p.m. The doors opened as scheduled – at 7p.m. The band could not do a soundcheck and the technicians could not do their bit either. But the show went by without any problems except for Peter’s camera which would not work for The Barry Williams Show.
    During the performance of the opening group, the Blind Boys of Alabama, the audience had the doubtful pleasure of witnessing a PA stress test: A microphone fell onto one of the cymbals on the drum kit; the drummer could not see that, of course, and there was almost a minute of scratching and hissing sounds loud enough to rupture one’s eardrums.
    Rachel Z and Tony Levin played some of Rachel’s pieces at a surprise show at the HMV in Montreal.
    Another acoustic accident occurred at the second night. David Rhodes’ guitars were far too high in the mix for The Barry Williams Show, but funnily enough, it sounded very good. The band premièred Shock The Monkey and Peter explained in fluent French that the song never sounded as good as on this tour.
    At the end of In Your Eyes none other than stage designer Robert Lepage himself came onstage and was cheered by the audience.
    Peter has stated several times that the second night in Montreal was probably the best show of the North American tour. It definitely was one of the longest.


    Quebec City, La Colisée

    Quebec was treated to hosting a warm-up concert before the tour start. 1,000 fans were allowed to come and listen to the band doing their full dress rehearsal. The only condition was that they had to bring their tickets for the regular show on November 30, 2002.


    Toronto, Air Canada Center

    There were several interesting incidents in the largest arena of the North American tour. Peter took the stage with the words "I will start with something we haven't finished last time" and began to play Here Comes The Flood. Indeed, Peter had only sung the first verse of the song during the Secret World Tour before leaving the stage without an explanation, thus ending the show. This time he held his breath after the first verse befored he proceeded to sing the chorus. Did he remember his peculiar behaviour on the Secret World tour and want to make up for it? We don’t know, but it looked like that to many people in the audience.
    Toronto also took the prize for the show in which the most lyrics were confused or forgotten. It already began with Darkness and Peter’s confusion didn’t really lift until he began to climb up Solsbury Hill. There was an “I laugh until I cry” and an “there's no ooaoaoooaa it to be, there's no control over me”. Secret World’s last verse was jumbled up and Red Rain was a complete chaos throughout the lyrics. The peak was reached when Peter began the second verse of More Than This too early: “It started when... no, sorry, my fault! It started when I saw...” The atmosphere in Toronto was rather reserved. There was always enthusiastic applause after the songs, but people did not really want to sing along, clap along or stand up. The singalong part of Animal Nation did not really work out either and Peter surrendered. He lay down on stage and waited til the audience began to sing. From that moment on, the ice was broken in Toronto.
    The widow of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan sat in the audience and Peter explained: “You can hear his voice on the next track and maybe his spirit is in the air. His widow is among you and I dedicate this song to her.”


    Denver

    Peter’s voice was at its worst during this concert. The set was therefore shortened (one encore only, no Shock The Monkey). During Sky Blue it became very obvious that Peter had problems with his voice – he really wasted the song. Peter returned to the stage after In Your Eyes and explained that he’d given all he had to give, but that he was not well that night.


    Shaking the tour tree

    It was a great experience to see Peter live once more after almost ten years. The biggest question, of course, was: Would he be able to stand the stress and strain of such a concert tour at the age of 52? The answer is clear and simple: Yes, he is! There were only three or four shows where he had problems with his voice, but he really won everybody over with both his physical fitness and continually improving voice. Some of the songs were thoroughly overhauled – Secret World and Shock The Monkey in particular sounded much better than on previous tours. Red Rain, however, was weaker and emotionally less intense than on the album. Richard Evans and his flute are a wonderful asset on Mercy Street. Unfortunately it is very hard to hear him when he plays the acoustic guitar.
    It may be expected that Peter will change the set for the upcoming European tour. The core of the show will doubtlessly remain the same. But he surprised the North Americans with Animal Nation and he certainly will surprise the European fans in April and May.
    That brings us to the second biggest question: Will he return? Well, that’s in the stars. He may come in September, but he has not yet mentioned the year.

    report and photos by Christian Gerhardts
    translated by Martin Klinkhardt


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