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Peter Gabriel live - Encore Series 2012

Sixteen three-course menus

Peter Gabriel has brought out another Encore Series from his Back To Front tour 2012. Soundboard recordings from all shows (except one) are officially available from the website, which makes them something like official bootlegs. Each show can be bought individually as a 2CD set. You can also buy a North American Collectors' CD Box in a cardboard box and a North American Deluxe CD Road Case. To top even that, you can get all shows and cases with microphone-shaped USB sticks instead of CDs.

All about that and the shows themselves below.

The exterior
The CD Road case has the tour logo. Apart from that it is the same design as the road cases from earlier Encore series. It is also made by the same company, only it is slightly bigger than, say, the 2003 roadcase, though that had more shows.

In the size of a CD booklet the tour programme has been added as a bonus. Unlike the big programme that was available at the shows it contains only photos that appertain directly to the tour alongside a list of tour dates and nothing about Gabriel's other projects and fields of interest. The box also comes with five tour photos as individual prints.
The CDs come in the same sleeves as the individually available ones. They are made of simple brown cardboard with the five confused faces, place and location. The back shows the track lists in a print that is intentionally lopsided and blurred. The CDs themselves are white with clean black print. The Encore concept that was conceived in 2003 is thus being continued consistently and without major changes. 

USB Sticks


This time around for the first time the shows are being offered on USB sticks. Unless they are ordered in the Road Case or the Collector's Box they come in a specially made little box with a foam inlay. Cover and tracklist are provided on a separate sheet. The stick is quite heavy, some 3in long (7.5cm) and 1in wide (2.5cm) at the widest point of the mike. The microphone handle has the colour of anodized aluminum. It actually is metal with an engraving (or imprint) that reads So Back To Front 2012 you can just about make out with the naked eye. The USB contact is located in the silver mike head that can be pulled off the handle. The width makes it a bit ungainly, depending on what kind of equipment you use to read the stick and how the USB ports are located.

USB StickIf you plug the stick into your computer it shows up as "show XX“. It contains full-blown wave files so that the data is lossless. There is a subfolder called PG Tour Bonus Material. In it there are two live shots (one of which has been used several times for promo purposes) and the cover artwork  without the concert engraving. As a nice gesture a 70MB PDF document of the tourbook was included; this is not on the 2CD sets.

The USB sticks leave an excellent impression. Though there were apparently some issues with the first batch the sticks we examined are perfectly alright and of good quality.


The fans were equally surprised and delighted to hear that Gabriel would play this tour with the same band as on the So concerts in 1987. It is particularly great that he managed to get Manu Katché who has become a respected artist in his own right in the meantime. Though he does not play as furiously as back then he still drives the songs forward with his trademark elegance. David Sancious, whose jazzy influence left a strong mark on the 1987 performances, remains a bit more unobtrusive. There are few moments for him to shine. Old hand Tony Levin grooves with lots of soul, as is his wont, and still finds the time to shoot photos for his website. David Rhodes and his guitar work have, surprisingly, been moved to the fore in the mixes. His input had not been heard so clearly so far. The 2012 tour brings in „two new friends“, too. Jennie Abrahamson and Linnea Olsson take over backing vocal duties. Linnea joined the band at very short notice when Ane Brun got sick, and Jennie was promoted to „backing vocalist with solo duties“.


Gabriel has played the same set throughout the 2012 tours. In San Jose he began to occasionally drop Washing Of The Water for Humdrum. Apart from that the evening is divided into three courses, as he explains before: The first course begins with an unfinished song without concrete lyrics and leads into two and a half acoustic songs, This is meant to represent the evolution of songs that begin their lives as raw piano versions before they are developed in sessions. The second course consists of pieces in the usual, fully plugged-in arrangements, a cross-section of Gabriel's oeuvre. The third course, the dessert, as it were, consists of the full So album without any announcements in the playing order Gabriel originally intended. Encores comprise The Tower That Ate People and Biko. No songs from Up are played...

On the whole, Gabriel plays his songs in the old familiar arrangements, which is a bit regrettable because he does not lift the whole potential of his musicians in order to preserve the „Gabriel sound“. Apart from that it is worth while pointing out some other things.

The fact that Gabriel offers acoustic versions of Come Talk To Me and especially Shock The Monkey, a song he has not played regularly for twenty years, may be a result of his work with the orchestral arrangements. With those he has seen that pressure and tension can be created with quiet means, and Shock The Monkey proves the point. No Self Control follows the live version of 1987. It is also one of the few moments where David Sancious can really shine. Jennia Abrahamnson as a duet partner is a piece of luck; she sings a great Don't Give Up, perhaps the best version since Paula Cole's. That Voice Again is played consistently for the first time ever on a tour. It has an austere, too austere, arrangement that does not make full use of the song's potential. Big Time, which returned to set lists in 2007, remains a challenge. The vocals are often a bit muddled. This Is The Picture is back after a long time. It has been given an attractive structure and benefits from the female voices. The coordination amongst the musicians goes wrong in many shows (because of the dance moves?) so that the song begins to wobble a bit.

The recordings
The sound quality is as excellent as we can expect from the previous Encores. The mixes are basically clear and well-balanced. Sometimes single instruments stick out, particularly keyboards or guitars. The latter really come into their own, though it is also overdone at times. The volume of the audience is much reduced and depends on whether you hear music or an announcement. There is often an annoying surge in volume for the long applauses before the encores.
It should also be notes that the track marks have been placed with no sense at all so that they cut into the last word of the announcement or even into the first note of the music.

The individual shows

16/09/12 Quebec City - Pepsi Colisée

Sound: Balanced and with a pretty good mix for a premiere.
Fuck-Ups: It is the first show of the tour and there is a hint of nerves. The beginning seems a bit tentative, but warmed up and compact from Digging on. There are many minor and major things going wrong. The biggest of these is certainly the interruption of The Tower That Ate People and its relegation to the first encore. The band has trouble coordinating in the last verse of Secret World and Gabriel makes a stupid vocal mistake.
Special events: Kicking the show off with O But is a big surprise: a completely unknown song without proper lyrics. All announcements are in French. The interruption of Tower and the ensuing long break is commented by a shout from the audience „Don't give up“.
Other information / comparison to other Encores:
The issue with The Tower That Ate People leads to the song being moved to the first encore for the rest of the tour. It was originally scheduled to sit between No Self Control and Washing Of The Water. The latter is very accomplished. A bit restrained at first perhaps, but remarkable for its sparse instrumentation. That Voice Again has a noticably empty arrangement and the guitar is too low in the mix. .
Summary: Not the most perfect show of the tour, but very authentic because everybody is still coming to terms with their parts and therefore very alert.
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18/09/12 Montreal - Bell Centre

Sound: Crystal clear, treble and bass very precise. The acoustic guitars are really audible in Shock The Monkey. Apart from slightly dominating keyboards the So album sounds excellent.
Fuck Ups: Slightly garbled intro vocals for Come Talk To Me, and an unexpected switch of register in Peter's vocals for the second verse of Washing.
Special events: Daby Touré appears for In Your Eyes. Touré had been support act for Peter's Still Growing Up tour in 2004.
Other information / comparison to other Encores:
Though this is only the second show it already is a home game. The band exudes self-confidence. Gabriel cannot do anything wrong in Montreal, as the high spirits on stage prove right away. The mix is very interesting not least because the ecstatic audience can be heard quite clearly.
While Come Talk To Me is very in your face, Shock The Monkey is less aggressive. The verses are sung quietly in a low key. Solsbury Hill has been heard more clearly, there is still room for improvements. A memorable keyboard sound is used in Secret World some three minutes into the song. Sounds like a fun fair!
Summary: The second show has very good sound, few flaws (musically and lyrically) and a fantastic audience.
* Order this Encore from USB | 2CD

19/09/12 Toronto - Air Canada Centre

Sound: There is an echo that can only be heard during the quiet bits.
Fuck-Ups: No obvious problems other than Gabriel having trouble with the high notes during the first couple of songs. O But has some bass feedback at the beginning. There is some confusion in the closing section of Secret World. Gabriel sings the first line of Biko in a high register only to continue an octave lower.
Special events: The set is one song short and moves straight to So after Solsbury Hill. Since the first two shows took place in the francophone part of Canada this is the first show with announcements in English. They are still brief, e.g. for Fishing Net.
Other information / comparison to other Encores:
The songs become routine though one does not hear anyone take any liberties with them. There are no identifiable words in O But though in later shows there seem to be a couple of clear words. The bass is even more prominent in Secret World than in other songs. The volume is almost too loud after „Mr David Rhodes“. Songs like Digging In The Dirt and Secret World will sound more inspired and impressive in later shows.
Summary: The third show of the tour has left the problems of a tour start behind, but it is still too early for additional niceties and improvements.
* Order this Encore from USB | 2CD

21/09/12 Philadelphia - Wells Fargo

Sound: The venue has a slight, altogether not unpleasant echo. The mix is well-balanced, but the talkative audience can be heard too distinctly between some songs.
Fuck-Ups: Minor mistakes, but nothing special apart from a restart at the beginning of That Voice Again complete with a merry comment of Peter's.
Special events: The show is very lively and full of character from the start.
Other information / comparison to other Encores:
In the fouth show of the tour the band have found their feet. They enjoy performing and almost all songs are played very well. The audience is audible ecstatic. O But has a very present bass and a velvety echo from the venue.
Summary: Not only is this a show without major flaws but an energetic and lively performance. Highly recommended.
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23/09/12 Wantaugh - Nikon at Jones Beach

Sound: The Nikon arena is an open air venue, a kind of amphitheatre, but the echo sounds rather like a mid-sized closed venue.
Fuck-Ups: Gabriel confuses the first two lines of the first chorus. It takes more than ten seconds in the beginning of Solsbury Hill until the guitar comes in after the hi-hat rhythm. Gabriel has trouble hitting the high notes for „I feel like I'm sinking down“ in the beginning of Washing Of The Water. Red Rain is stopped and begun anew after the first couple of bars. One of the first keyboard notes is off and in the end Gabriel has problems with a final „Red Rain“.
Special events: This is the first open air of the tour. There are many annoyed shouts from the audience to „turn off the lights!“ before Family Snapshot, and Gabriel hesitates a bit in his announcement. Some guitar effects in the final instrumental part of Digging In The Dirt and at the very end seem to have a wahwah effect in addition to the usual distortion.
Other information / comparison to other Encores:
Gabriel seems to have to work very hard for the critical moments  during the first half of the show. He seems to be a bit unfocused, listless even, which expresses itself in the rather brief announcements. The audience are livelier than other nights so that the overall atmosphere is great.
Summary: A lively show, which means more mistakes and less precision. If you enjoy open air atmosphere you might want to check out Los Angeles first.
* Order this Encore from USB | 2CD

24/09/12 Boston - TD Garden

Sound: There is a rather strong echo that makes the overall sound muddy at times. Volumes of the ambience and audience are not always lifted when they sing along.
Fuck-Ups: The backing vocals for Come Talk To Me are sometimes a bit off. Gabriel is a bit careless with the lyrics in the beginning of Mercy Street.
Special events: none
Other information / comparison to other Encores:
In this middle period of the tour the band has got rid of any initial problems and slowly begins to implement changes and improvements. Gabriel begins Shock The Monkey in a deep voice but he switches to a higher register in „Don't you monkey with the monkey“. The part some three minutes into Secret World loses most of that cheap keyboard sound. Solsbury Hill has a couple of new drum fills. When the band returns for Tower Gabriel says: „Surprise, surprise, we're back! We had a very good night tonight, thanks to you.“
Summary: A clean standard version of the show without major problems or highlights.
* Order this Encore from USB | 2CD

26/09/12 Detroit - Palace Of Auburn Hills

Sound: Lots of echoes in places. You can hear the audience talk and cough. Gabriel's announcements are sometimes a bit mute. Some of the songs have a very strong bass, and keyboards and guitars are occasionally to much in the front.
Fuck-Ups: Some bum notes here and there. Small problems with Peter's vocals. Red Rain begins a bit off-balance. The track index marks have been placed in a particularly careless fashion.
Special events: Gabriel asks the audience to sing a Happy Birthday for his son Isaac after In Your Eyes.
Other information / comparison to other Encores:
The peculiar dominance of keyboards and guitars can be heard especially during Digging and Secret World. Solsbury Hill sounds like a rough rehearsal recording. Big bass and keyboards work out well for Sledgehammer. It may not be the „safest“ show, but the band deliver.
Summary: Several flaws, the biggest of which is the mix, but overall a solid recording.
* Order this Encore from USB | 2CD

27/09/12 Chicago - United Center

Sound: The echo is not so bad. The mix is frequently a bit off-balance.
Fuck-Ups: Apart from the thundering bass hardly anything can be heard in the Red Rain intro.
Special events: none
Other information / comparison to other Encores:
Gabriel tries to go easy on his voice. He begins to sing Come Talk To Me in a high voice, switches down an octave for the third verse only to move up again. Shock The Monkey is sung in a low key in both verses, but there is a rare audience participation opportunity to sing „shock the monkey to life“. The keyboards are quite loud around 3:08 in Secret World; hoarse cries and wrong clapping from the audience disturb the performance a bit. While introducing the band after In Your Eyes Gabriel says „bless you“ and there is a brief laugh; apparently someone sneezed. The audience vocals are quite loud in the mix for Biko, which also means an audible echo from the drums.
Summary: The audience is very active here, and this also translates to the band. Chicago is a recommended show; it is the first gig where the band do, as it were, more than just their duty.
* Order this Encore from USB | 2CD

30/09/12 Denver - Red Rocks

Sound: The Red Rocks arena is clearly an open air venue. The sound is better than in some theatres though the mix is a bit unbalanced at times. The audience can hardly be heard.
Fuck-Ups: Gabriel stops after the first line of O But and explains that „I told my parents that if I work really hard I'm gonna go professional one day.“ Rhodes' guitar sounds very thin 2:47 into Digging In The Dirt as if it were in the background only. It takes a while before all the instruments begin to play their parts in This Is The Picture, and Gabriel's microphone has a few dropouts. The distortion and limitation of the vocals seems to fail in the louder parts of The Tower That Ate People so that the full frequency range can be heard.
Special events: Gabriel introduces the So part at considerable length. He explains that the change in the track order was because of the properties of vinyl and that that is why In Your Eyes was placed at a different position.
Other information / comparison to other Encores:
This is the last show where one can hear the keyboard line along with the bass line from 3:07 onwards in Secret World – it is even louder than at previous shows. Solsbury Hill has a striking sound because of the organ, as does Washing Of The Water with the synth strings. That Voice Again benefits from an unusual mix as well as a certain inspiration.
Summary: An interesting recording, but it should not be bought alone. Some of the later shows in particular sound better and have fewer flaws.
* Order this Encore from USB | 2CD

02/10/12 San Jose - HP Pavilion

Sound: Proper echo in the venue. Apart from that it is a clean mix.
Fuck-Ups: No real flaws. The track marks have been placed without any regard for the recording.
Special events: First show with Humdrum in the set.
Other information / comparison to other Encores:
The echo is quite audible in the quieter parts. At times this is good because it adds a sense of space, but at other times it is annoying (We Do What We're Told). The show seems a routine job from That Voice Again onwards. No flaws, no special kick, but many minor wobblies.
The special thing is, of course, the first performance of Humdrum on the tour, and a good one at that. Come Talk To Me works very well and creates a fine atmosphere.
Summary: No special show. No big issues, but nothing remarkable either.
* Order this Encore from USB | 2CD

05/10/12 Las Vegas - Planet Hollywood Showroom

Sound: This is obviously a smaller venue.
Fuck-Ups: There is a brief humming sound in the No Self Control intro. Rhodes hits bum notes in Solsbury Hill, so does Peter in Red Rain. The Sledgehammer intro is rather short and uneven.
Special events: The band has an urge to play, but it feels at times as if Peter could not go all out.
Other information / comparison to other Encores:
The band plays the first third in high spirits – and then all of a sudden they seem exhausted. O But, Shock The Monkey and Secret World are spirited performances; Come Talk To Me, Family Snapshot and Sledgehammer have minor flaws, but still sound excellent. This Is The Picture sounds muddy and not very precise. Gabriel's voice seems spent in The Tower That Ate People.
Summary: After a very pleasant beginning the show goes to pieces.
* Order this Encore from USB | 2CD

06/10/12 Los Angeles - Hollywood Bowl

Sound: The drums are continuously in the fore, frequently along with the guitars, which makes for a  strong rock sound.
Fuck-Ups: None, though the band seem to lose some of their focus towards the end.
Special events: John Cusack has a cameo for In Your Eyes. He cannot be heard, but he is announced. Right before Shock The Monkey someone shouts: „Change the lights! Ridiculous!“
Other information / comparison to other Encores:
The show is very spirited and has a strong groove.  Are they all making a special effort because the whole world of show biz is watching in LA? Even the last third is not as tired as in other shows. Come Talk To Me, Digging and Secret World are brilliant, lively performances with a good urge forward courtesy of the drums. No Self Control is another good piece. Even the difficult Big Time and That Voice Again have their day here. Sometimes, however, there is too much power in it and then it all begins to sound rough and brutal (Sledgehammer, This Is The Picture). 
Summary: A special show. If you enjoy rock and a band that has fun playing, then this is for you.
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08/10/12 San Diego - Valley View Casino

Sound: You can hear an echo in the voices, particularly the 's', in the announcements and quiet moments. Rhodes' shredding guitar is not really upfront in Digging In The Dirt, the keyboard stereo effects are stronger.
Fuck-Ups: Nothing special. Some of the track marks are right in the last words of the announcements... again.
Special events: At the end of Come Talk To Me a woman shouts „You still sound amazing“, to which Gabriel politely replies „Thank you.“
Other information / comparison to other Encores:
The echo is a bit annoying. Murmurs from the audience can also be heard during the first couple of songs. Because of the echo this Encore should not be listened to through headphones, and it is beyond the reviewer to understand why the ambience microphones could not be set up in a way that the echo is not recorded when it comes back … Las Vegas has the same problem, but since that is a much smaller venue it is not a big thing. Tony's bass is nicely prominent.
Summary: Nothing to complain about, but as far as sound and performance are concerned the L.A. show is the superior Californian concert.
* Order this Encore from USB | 2CD

09/10/12 Santa Barbara - County Bowl

NoEncore! The show was to be recorded, too, but apparently someone realized only when they were there that as per the rules of the County Bowl this would have been illegal. There have been no technical issues. (To make up for this, two older recordings have been aded to the Deluxe CD Road Case, e.g. Nice 22/07/2004 and Leuven 30/06/2007. Boths shows have short setlists for the tour, perhaps that is why they have so many left...)
Those who attended the Santa Barbary Show remember that there was, in fact, a flaw in Come Talk To Me. Gabriel came in too early with „the earthly power“, went „oops“ and „this was my first fuck-up of the evening“ and waited for his cue. John Cusack and Cameron Crowe, the director of Say Anything, had cameos, but did not say anything during their brief stay on the stage. Gabriel took the boombox again and lifted it over his head, as in the film.

13/10/12 Uncasville - Mohegan Sun

Sound: There is an obvious echo in the venue. The mix, however, sound good and well-balanced.
Fuck-Ups: They miss their cue in the background loop for Mercy Street, so Gabriel and the backing singers desperately struggle to catch up with the proper cues. The song is just about to fail completely.
Special events: Leslie Feist joins the band on stage and sings Don't Give Up with Gabriel. Apparently they had done that two days earlier at the Witness benefit concert in New York. Her performance is fine technically, but without any highlights. Jennie puts far more feeling into it.
Other information / comparison to other Encores:
Up to Sledgehammer the show is almost flawless. Nothing annoying, everybody is focused and plays a solid show, albeit without that extra bit of inspiration. Besides Mercy Street some other songs begin to wobble in the last third of the show (This Is The Picture).
Summary: A straightforward show. No big issues (except for see above), but nothing special either.
* Order this Encore from USB | 2CD

14/10/12 Virginia - Patriot Center

Sound: The guitars are quite dominant in the mix. So are the keyboards at times.
Fuck-Ups: None, really. The CD track marks are an issue, though.
Special events: Peter Gabriel sings the first verse of Shock The Monkey in a high register. Someone sings along (very unpleasantly) to the Sledgehammer intro – someone else repeats „don't give up, Peter, don't give up“ after Don't Give Up.
Other information / comparison to other Encores:
The loud guitars are a problem at times (Digging In The Dirt, Solsbury Hill), but also an asset in No Self Control. The overall atmosphere of the show is one of relaxed routine, it being the last show of the tour. Peter seems both ambitious and exhausted. He has occasional problems with his voice (Don't Give Up). In the final third they all grow a bit unfocused. Shock The Monkey and No Self Control are highlights; they really have the urge forward.
Summary: Not bad at all, spirited, but not really good either.
* Order this Encore from USB | 2CD


Encore Series - ordering information

To order the 2CD sets or the USB sticks please visit You will need a credit card or a paypal account. 2CD sets are US$15, the USB sticks cost US$20. Add P&P to that: usually US$6,88 to Europe, unless you choose „fast delivery“ at a higher price. Because of customs regulations it may be a good idea to order only two or three 2CD sets in one go. The USB sticks are shipped individually in small boxes. As the number of items grows so do the shipping costs. There are also several other shipping option. Every now and then there are specials where you can get older Encore Series items, e.g. by Genesis, at reduced prices.

by Thomas Schrage, Volker Warncke, Christian Gerhardts and Steffen Gerlach, English by Martin Klinkhardt

Peter Gabriel

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