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A Wallflower In Chile

Impressions from Peter Gabriel's Latin American Tour 2009

Peter Gabriel does not come to South America very often. When he does, he comes in style, though. He achieved cult status in Chile mostly because of the Amnesty tour band  concerts in 1988 (with Sting, Tracy Chapman, Youssou N'Dour, Bruce Springsteen and Inti-Illimani). They were denied entry into Chile, and so they played a legendary concert in Mendoza, Argentina, a city very close to the Chilean border. Peter Gabriel's 1988 performance had many highlights, but there was one moment that became incredibly important at that point in time: He performed Biko together with Inti-Illimani. This Chilean band had live in exile during the Pinochet years and was held in high regard in the world of music.

1991 saw the first Amnesty concert in Chile under the motto Un Abrazo A La Esperanza, or Embracing Hope. Peter came without his band and played to a 60,000 audience in the Estadio Nacional, the very stadium into which political prisoners would be brought years before. He performed a Spanish song with Inti-Illimani written by Víctor Jara, one of Latin America's most important songwriters. Jara was killed in a stadium nearby shortly after the 1973 putsch. Later that night Sting brought Gabriel back on stage and they played Don't Give Up with Sinéad O'Connor and Sting's band. That night's version was rather poor, though, mainly because Sting's keyboarder made several mistakes.

1In 1993 Gabriel returned to Chile for the Secret World Tour. For the first time he brought his band with him, and legend has it that he had an argument with Sinéad O'Connor at Santiago airport and she decided to fly back. That night Peter Gabriel sang Blood Of Eden with Shankar. The audience were ecstatic, totally out of bounds, real chaos. Digging In The Dirt with the notorious headcam performance got the audience going. At the end of the show Inti-Illimani joined Peter on stage for Wallflower.

2009 – Suddenly news surface that Peter Gabriel will return. The official announcement came a brief month before the actual show. Tickets went on sale at the same time with prices ranging from 60 to 250 EUR – scandalously high prices for Chile. Tickets sold slowly, of course. Four days before the concert ticket prices were cut down by 50 percent which, of course, made early buyers angry. That was the atmosphere before the show: An angry discussion about prices and sales methods.

When the crowd heard the opener, Zaar, everything was forgotten. Peter Gabriel enters the stage. He comes in from the left with a pile of paper in his hand, followed by the other musicians. He bows a couple of times before the show proper begins. The rhythmic intro to The Rhythm Of The Heat has already begun, and people are ecstatic. Peter Gabriel can hardly be heard, the 13,000 in the Arena Santiago are shouting so loudly. That night's set list:

01 The Rhythm Of The Heat
02 On The Air
03 Intruder
04 Steam
05 Blood Of Eden
06 Games Without Frontiers
07 No Self Control
08 Mother Of Violence (Melanie Solo)
09 Darkness
10 The Tower That Ate People
11 San Jacinto
12 Big Time
13 Secret World
14 Solsbury Hill
15 Sledgehammer
16 Signal To Noise
17 Wallflower (with Inti-Illimani)
18 In Your Eyes (with Inti-Illimani)
19 Red Rain
20 Father, Son
21 Biko

Peter enjoys introducing the songs. The papers he brought have these introductions in Spanish. Some examples:

Steam - „Sometimes two bodies rubbing against each other make water boil“.

Darkness - „When we were children we came to a house in the woods, and we thought a witch lived there. We tried peek in through the windows. The following song is about this fear.“

San Jacinto - „In the United States, many years ago, I met a man...“ and so on. We know that story.

Peter had a decription for every song. 

2All songs were played very well, except for Big Time. It was evident that Gabriel was not happy with it – it sounded bad, and the audience noticed it. The opposite thing happened for Darkness, The Tower That Ate People, San Jacinto, Secret World, Signal To Noise, Wallflower, Red Rain and Biko. He may look a bit older, but he had enough energy for the two and a half hours. San Jacinto was a visual highlight. Peter Gabriel toyed with a mirror, highlighting various people in the audience.

The first encore united Inti-Illimani and Peter Gabriel again. Peter Gabriel introduced them as „the fabulous Inti-Illimani“ and they played Wallflower again – with an air of a long hoped-for reencounter. Inti-Illimani's saxophone player also played on In Your Eyes. The concert ended, befitting the occasion, with Biko.

It was probably Peter's last visit to Chile, and I still have the melody of Biko in my head...

by Olegario Hernandez Allel (Chile)

translated by Martin Klinkhardt

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