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Peter Gabriel Back To Front Tour 2013

Peter Gabriel: Back To Front live in Europe 2013

...I Shoot Into The Light: Gabriel serves the Europeans

It was a bit like 2002. Europe? No, we are touring North America. After that we will see. This time around the worst case seemed to loom: Gabriel had announced that he would embark on his sabbatical right after the North American tour 2012. Therefore doubts grew about whether the Back To Front tour would come to Europe, not least because the original tour would lie at least twenty-six years in the part in 2013. But such numbers are something Gabriel has never had much interest in. The So Anniversary Boxset was no silver jubilee, but a Gabriel jubilee. We celebrate the 26th anniversary with a boxset. That is a kind of concept, too. Everybody was relieved when concerts were being announced for Europe for 2013.

There are several comprehensive documentaries about the 2012 shows, so we are going to focus on what was special in Europe.

Dates and locations

All shows took place between late September and later October 2013, with one show per city – except for London, which had two. Peter played many venues fans know from previous tours, like the Forst Nationaal in Brussels, the Leipzig Arena, the O2 Worlds in Prague, Hamburg and Berlin, the Palais Omnisport in Paris-Bercy or the O2 in London. Some of the venues had changed their name, some, like the MRC Arena Manchester, even between the announcement and the show itself. The first concert took place in a completely unknown venue in Herning, Denmark. Genesis fans will at least know the town as the second concert of Genesis’ Turn It On Again tour took place there in 2007. There was a show in Amsterdam and a rare visit to Vienna. The Gabriel fan stronghold Italy got only one show in Milan. Concerts in Geneva had been rare so far. Zagreb was a new one, Peter had not played here before and at the time of the show Croatia would be part of the EU. The concert had to be moved, though, because the promoter went bankrupt. The replacement show took place outside the EU, in Belgrade, Serbia.

Neither Spain nor Portugal got to host any shows, nor was Greece, where the concert film Live In Athens was shot in 1987 on the list of venues. Finland, Sweden and Norway were left out, as was much of Eastern Europe.

Most of the locations were normal venues. The Herning venue was a bit odd, and it was here that they had massive problems with the sound. Peter Gabriel also played the ISS Dome Dusseldorf for the first time. Though this hockey rink in the suburb of Unterrath is a tin can with very little parking, it nevertheless had a surprisingly good sound.

Gabriel goes static - no set list variety

Peter GAbriel live Europe 2013 Berlin 1Well, almost none. There was one variety when Gabriel surprised everybody by playing Games Without Frontiers. The song was dropped again after two shows. On the North America tour the first set would end with either Washing Of The Water or Humdrum, so little variety there. Starting in Brussels, Gabriel cemented the set. The second part of the show would always end with a completely new song called Why Don’t You Show Yourself. It will be used in the film Words With Gods which is to come out in 2014.

Show elements: Something old, something new, something changed

The set did not change much, therefore there were hardly any changes in the live show either. Some things are worth mentioning: The Magic Cubes that were used in Herning and Amsterdam added another playful element to Games Without Frontiers. It reminded people of 2003 when Gabriel brought the Segways to the stage. The problem with the Magic Cubes was that they did not add the desired effect. In fact, they felt out of place during the show, which is probably one of the reasons why the whole song was dropped with them.
The show did have interesting details. As in America, the first three songs were played with the house lights on. Despite the explanations given the audience found the effect peculiar. Demands to turn the “lights out!” were not rare. It was all the more impressive and brilliant when right in the middle of Family Snapshot, at the beginning of the fast part, the switch came from house lights to show lights. This did not work quite as well everywhere. Stuttgart, for example, dimmed the house lights slowly. In Berlin, the house lights did not go out all at once, but slowly and one after the other.

With this, the black and white phase of the show began. Up until the end of the “electric part” no coloured lights were used at all, only white spots and white strobe lights accompanied the part of the show. Towards the end of Family Snapshot, during the line “I shoot into the light” (at which time the photo from the header graphic was taken), one of the cranes lifted for the first time. After that, Digging In The Dirt and Secret World provided a surfeit of light effects. The video screens were switched on for the first time, and distorted images of the musicians harked back to the Secret World tour. Secret World had geometrical forms moving across the screens. In them, the musicians could be seen until the whole band presented themselves on the screen in the end. The range of lights right under the roof of the venue was used for the first time for The Family And The Fishing Net. It came down and kind of sat on one of the light cranes that blew smoke towards the ceiling at the end of the song. It was spooky when the light cranes took Gabriel prisoner in No Self Control. These nightmarish effects were outstanding – and to think the cranes were operated manually.
Why Don’t You Show Yourself added a special note to the set. This new song, a ballad of sorts, has a beautiful melody with fine cello.

The So part finally brought on the colours. Red and blue in Red Rain, all colours for Slegehammer and Big Time. Interestingly, Peter Gabriel would slowly carry a suitcase across the rear stage area while Jenny Abrahamson sang her part in Don't Give Up. A Secret World tour cameo?

Peter GAbriel live Europe 2013 Berlin 2Mercy Street was even more sophisticated. Gabriel’s performance (lying down) was captured by several cameras including a sky camera which was lowered from the top. Anxiety returned in We Do What We’re Told as the cranes aligned symmetrically in front of the stage. The band did not come to the front to play their Modern Talking instruments in This Is The Picture but stayed at their places so that there was no in-show introduction of the musicians. In 1986/87 they would be introduced in This Is The Picture. Something similar seems to have been planned to Games Without Frontiers where the band were introduced by and by in the Magic Cube intro. Games Without Frontiers, however, was soon dropped from the set, and so was the band intro except for the introduction after O But.
Highpoint of the show was The Tower That Ate People. The descending circle of lights and the sheath of cloth in which Gabriel vanished reminded Genesis fans invariably of The Lamia.

Peculiarities and fuck-ups

Sledgehammer was affected twice by a fuck-up. Gabriel’s microphone failed for a verse in Herning, while in Berlin there were problems with the bass, which distracted David Sancious so that his played the brass sample too late. In Leipzig and Manchester Gabriel stopped Come Talk To Me and started the song over.
Another peculiar moment occurred in Amsterdam when Secret World was played as a kind of edit, caused probably by a background sample played at the wrong moment. What makes this memorable is the fact that one would hardly notice, the band smoothly played a shorter version of the song without the complete middle and ending.

...and action! Chaotic cameras in London

Peter GAbriel live Europe 2013 Berlin 3Both nights in London were filmed for the upcoming Blu-ray and cinema experience. Extra cameras were set up for either nights, but (as for the New Blood film) in different setups. The first night they had a gigantic camera crane at soundboard level, while there were camera that could move from left to right and back on rails the other night. Throughout the whole show there was additional lighting on the ceiling, usually in blue, green and red.
Some time before the show Peter Gabriel had asked the fan audience on Facebook to film the show, and In Your Eyes and Big Time in particular, on their smartphones as a kind of crowdsourcing project. At the night of the concert Hamish Hamilton, the film producer, announced something completely different. He talked about This Is The Picture. This caused quite a lot of confusion, since many people, but not all, knew the Facebook message. Then there were purists who disliked filming as such and a security crew who apparently only listened to Hamish Hamilton (and not very well): they had orders to make sure that people filmed only during This Is The Picture. In the end the audience were constantly admonished, which did not help the atmosphere – especially when members of the audience began telling each other off.

Hit list

This hit list is a little tour gimmick. It is utterly subjective, but it has been assembled by one who should know, for Axel has seen all shows of the European tour but one.

... the atmosphere

Peter GAbriel live Europe 2013 Berlin 4There is a basic difference between shows where the audience would be seated and those were they would stand. The latter were livelier, which gave the shows in Germany a little advantage. The audience at the gigs in Brussels and Milan, which also had no seats in the arena, did not really catch fire, though. Perhaps the shows were a bit early in the tour schedule. Manchester was, though a seated audience, a highlight, and so was Prague (where the most beer was consumed). The famous post-show euphoria really took a hold from Geneva onwards.

TOP: the shows in Germany, Manchester, Prague
FLOP: Milan, Amsterdam

... the sound

The sound always depends on where you stand, but Axel has moved around a lot during the show, stood here and there and thus got a good overview. Compared to previous tours the sound was rather disappointing. Manu Katché, for example, could not be heard clearly unless you were standing right in front of the stage. The best sound could be experienced in, surprisingly, Leipzig, and in London, where everything was a bit more bombastic because of the sheer size of the venue. The worst sound had to be endured in Glasgow, though the acoustics of the new HYDRO are supposed to be one its assets...

TOP: Leipzig, London
FLOP: Glasgow

... the venues

So the London O2 is even more gigantic than the others, the O2 arenas are all the same. The Forst Nationaal in Brussels is a wonderfully old, filthy venue full of atmosphere, while the HYDRO in Glasgow is brand new, looks full from the outside and is compact inside. Paris is a legend of its own.
The venue in Milan is way out of town, including a long walk through an industrial area. The same goes for Dusseldorf, and what is worse there is the security: There is, apparently, only one large entrance to the arena.

TOP: Paris, Brussels, Glasgow
FLOP: Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Milan

Peter GAbriel live Europe 2013 Berlin 5... Peter's vocals

This is probably the hardest to judge, and we would like to refer you to the Encore review.

TOP: see our Encore review
FLOP: see our Encore review

... prices of beverages (alright, beer):

Beer was usually between 4 and 6.50 EUR for half a litre or a pint. Prague was a total exception; a mere 40 Krona (not quite 1.50 EUR) bought you a noble Staropramen. Paris was the worst – for a mediocre 1664 beer you had to shell out 8.50 EUR.

TOP: Prague
FLOP: Paris

... audiences

A solid guesstimate. It was full everywhere, except for Herning and London II, but that venue is a monster. Geneva might have had the smallest audience, perhaps Belgrade, but Axel did not see that show...

biggest: London
smallest: Geneva

... security

Most security people were pretty relaxed, except for London, where it was chaotic. The entrance procedure in Paris was rather unacceptable – after a long march through the adjacent dark woods you had a tough security check.

okay to good: everywhere except for Paris, London
not good: London (re filming)

... weather

cold outside: It was not really cold anywhere
warm outside: Amsterdam and Brussels – just like spring
rain outside: Milan, particularly Prague and Leipzig, downpour in Manchester

... smokers' areas

Some locations offer special areas for smokers, or you have to into a cordoned-off area outside. In London you could not smoke, i.e. you would have to go outside to smoke and your ticket would become invalid.

TOP: Dusseldorf, Brussels
FLOP: London

by Christian Gerhardts, English by Martin Klinkhardt
photos: Lia Eastwood (photo for the header graphics), Peter Schütz
TOP&FLOP list with kind support of Axel Beringer