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    When the night looms . . .


    Peter Gabriel returns to the stage - Munich, Germany, Aug 31, 2002


    He had not been seen live in Germany for eight long years. His new album UP has not been released yet, but Peter Gabriel and his band warm up for the up-coming tour that is scheduled to begin in North America in mid-November.

    Gabriel had announced that he was going to play a couple of small concerts in the time leading up to the album release and the tour. It still came as a surprise that he would headline the Könixxtreffen [meeting of kings] in Munich with a one-hour set.

    The event was the twentieth anniversary of Virgin Germany. It is quite sensational that the organizers could convince someone like Peter Gabriel to play here live in the middle of tour rehearsals. And it was the reason for many fans for a pilgrimage to Munich.

    Peter Gabriel himself tried to keep expectations low. One should not expect too much, he said, there would be no sophisticated show and the rehearsals had not progressed too far. He added that he would play for about an hour only.

    His appearance at the Könixxtreffen truly was a world première. August 31, 2002 was more than three weeks before Gabriel’s latest opus UP would hit the shelves. During the press conference earlier that day Gabriel announced that he was going to play three new songs. Speculations about the set list went wild, considering that he was going to play not more than an hour. 


    gabe1 Before Gabriel took the stage there was a defilée of newcomers and old boys: Heyday, a very convincing The Ark, and Slut who are making a name for themselves. Then came Reamonn and really got the crowd going in the blazing sun an scorching heat with hits like Supergirl, Josephine or Saving An Angel.      
          
    The next musician was Hubert von Goisern. His performance was probably the night’s most debated set. Grand master Bryan Ferry was next on stage, and he captivated the audience with a fine mixture of old and new songs like Love Is A Drug and Let’s Stick Together. Dark clouds began to cover the darkening sky during his performance.

    Bryan leaves the stage which is instantly half-disassembled by the crew. The stage is cleared and re-filled in record time by the crew. Every now and then Tony Levin could be spotted taking photos of the audience. Finally Fritz Egner introduced the “very special guest” and the atmosphere grew better and better.


    rand Peter Gabriel and his new band took the stage amidst tumultuous applause. There were old hands like Tony Levin (bass) and David Rhodes (guitar) and new hands like Ged Lynch on the drums, Rachel Z on the keyboards, Richard Evans on flute and guitar and last not least Melanie Gabriel who, as at his WOMAD appearance, sang backing vocals. Peter Gabriel took his place at the keyboard wearing a pair of headphones that looked ridiculously like earmuffs used at building sites.

    To most people’s surprise the initial sound of Darkness, the album’s opener, could be heard. This song is, of course, still unknown to most of the audience. There were “shushs” and “shhhhhtt”s all over the place as Gabriel whispered “consequence” and an almost industrial thunderstorm of sound broke out causing lots of surprised and shocked faces. It’s a starter that’s hard to swallow and so Peter took the time to tell people in quite fluent German that this was the first concert with the new band and the new material. He added that the next song was a classic, introducing Roter Regen – Red Rain. They proceeded to play a powerful version of the So classic with which Gabriel, according to his own words, was hardly ever completely happy. He also did one of his trademarks, i.e. confusing the verses and forgetting the lines. At least Red Rain was not as embarrassing as the Amnesty Concert 1998. It was, in fact, an excellent rendition that got everybody going. The applause had hardly calmed when Peter Gabriel brought another groovy number called Erwachsen – Growing Up. Though it was a new song, the driving beat and the fine melody gave everybody “dancing legs”, as it were. This song was performed perfectly, for what it’s worth. You could feel how much the band enjoyed playing and you got a hunch of how good Ged Lynch will be for the band. Their sound rocks, it’s straight and direct. The bit when Gabriel sings one verse on top of the other on the album can convince live, too. Melanie Gabriel takes one part while her father sings the other verse. Growing Up was a huge success and it could turn out as a live classic.

     

    p4“Das nächste Lied ist älter als Virgin Deutschland” - “The next song is older than Virgin Germany – Solsbury Hill”. Big applause. This song is 25 years old and it still is a fantastic number. This was also the only time Gabriel left his keyboard and asked the audience to sing along. He himself, however, had some problems synching the speed of his singing to that of the band, so he ended up being too fast here and too slow there.

    At this point he had got everybody going. He continued with an absolute fan classic, a very intense version of Mercy Street featuring a flute solo by Richard Evans. The song seems slightly out of place after Solsbury Hill, but it still was a pleasure to hear it live again (or once more).


    The next song “handelt von der Zukunft des Reality TV (is about the future of reality TV) – es heißt The Barry Williams Show” and is the only track from the new album that most people knew from the radio. It was a very straight and rocking version, played harder than on the album. Gabriel experimented a bit with the vocals and the lyrics. Amidst the first verse there were a couple of screeching and far-too-loud keyboard sounds that diminished the acoustic pleasure. At the end of the first verse Gabriel clumsily danced away from his keyboard to let a technician solve the problem. The timing, however, was impeccable: When the second verse began, Gabriel was back at microphone and keyboard. The Barry Williams Show was well-received and Gabriel now took the time to introduce his new band before they continued with More Than This. This was the fourth new song and it proved wrong Peter’s own announcement in the press conference to only play three new songs. A lot of the sounds for More Than This came from tape, first of all the guitar bits that Peter probably played and sampled himself. The song came across more powerful than on the album. It lacked a bit of fine-tuning but it proved that Gabriel’s voice is still in top form.

    Everybody was surprised when Peter Gabriel announced that Digging In The Dirt was going to be the last song. It was well-performed, and it was much rougher than it is anyway. After this song, Peter and the band left the stage.     
       
    It was not long before they were all back. There seemed to be a minor sound problem. Everybody fiddled around with their instruments gesturing wildly until Peter Gabriel played the first line of Family Snapshot. The audience was in raptures and the band did their best, though the fine-tuning was evidently not there.

    Again the band left the stage. This time, Peter returned all alone and dedicated the last song to the people in the flood [at the time, the eastern part of Germany was suffering from severe flooding; translator’s note]. Indeed he played the Germany version of that old classic Here Comes The Flood. The audience were surprised, some laughed, most listened entranced. In the end Peter Gabriel received a big applause for some 70 minutes of music, slightly more than he had planned.


    p8Peter Gabriel made a good impression. He proved wrong the fears that his voice might not be up to the challenges of live appearances any more. The new band turned out be cut out for rockier versions than the Secret World Tour band. And the band are in the midst of tour rehearsals so one could not expect a perfect performance. There was no stage show either, varilights excepted. Gabriel’s performance on stage consisted only of playing the keyboard for all tracks and animating the audience to sing along to Solsbury Hill. The excellent set list and the grandiose finale made up for small break-downs, the lack of show and his notorious inability to remember lyrics.

    No, it was a good concert, a fine appetizer for the big show that Gabriel plans to bring here next summer. It was the world première of the new Up material. Peter Gabriel is up for it again and it certainly looks as if the tour is going to be something very special. The only thing Peter really ought to reconsider is the design of his headphones when the night looms.


    by Christian Gerhardts

    translated by Martin Klinkhardt

    photos by Karin Woywod


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