Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

Peter Gabriel at United Center!

| June 21, 2011

There’s never been a way to predict Peter Gabriel’s career and, at 61-years-old, chances are most wouldn’t have bet on a release covering everyone from Arcade Fire, Radiohead, Bon Iver, and Elbow to David Bowie, Paul Simon, Randy Newman, and Lou Reed. Not only is the track listing from last year’s Scratch My Back (Real World) surprising, but the format of the album and ensuing tour is backed by only orchestral accompaniment sans the customary guitar, drums, and garden-variety world-music instruments that are part of the Gabriel brand.

The stripped down but instrumentally swelling set up didn’t lead to a sold out United Center, but a full floor and second balcony was certainly respectable, especially considering the specialty nature of the weeknight show and eight year gap between area appearances. He may not ever be back considering it takes roughly a decade between albums these days, but at least he gave an ear-pleasing, albeit uneven, two-and-a-half hour assortment of newer material, deep cuts, and a few of his most symphony-friendly hits.

From the covers CD, Bowie’s “Heroes” opened the show with the lush grandeur of the New Blood Orchestra supporting Gabriel’s almost hushed moans, which, if it wasn’t for the lyrical familiarity, sounded absolutely nothing like the original. His transformation of Regina Spektor’s “Apres Moi” was much more epic in comparison, thanks to the barrage of strings, while Arcade Fire’s “My Body Is A Cage” began as a somber ballad and exploded into cacophony and alluring visuals.

While remakes took up much of the first half, Gabriel snuck in some of his moodier (and sleepier) material, including the rarely performed art-pop ballads “Wallflower” and “Washing Of The Water,” plus his understated but poignant human-rights anthem, “Biko.” After the intermission, the tone also simmered for the haunting “San Jacinto” and the melancholy “Mercy Street,” which were the handful of arrangements that mirrored the originals.

The contemplative vibe picked up on occasion, including a string-surging “Digging In The Dirt” and the experimental jam “Downside Up,” though even those momentous cuts couldn’t transform Gabriel’s stoic stage presence. Come the obscure “The Rhythm Of The Heat,” the orchestra combusted into cymbal crashes and crescendos, while Gabriel’s So apex “Red Rain” sent chills throughout the United Center.

Unfortunately, Gabriel was extremely stingy on the hits, and many fans could be heard shouting requests or grumbling under their breath for the likes of “Shock The Monkey” or “Sledgehammer.” (He even dropped previous tour anchors “Games Without Frontiers,” “Big Time,” and “Steam.”) For the finale (also the first time the arena rose to its feet together), “Solsbury Hill,” plus encores of “In Your Eyes” and “Don’t Give Up” transferred seamlessly into the new arrangments, and briefly recalled Gabriel’s younger years of playing to the cameras and bouncing around the stage.

Rather than go out with a bang, Gabriel bowed out over the largely unknown instrumental “The Nest That Sailed The Sky,” which once again displayed the New Blood Orchestra’s integral contributions to the evening and gave faithful yet another reminder to never try and guess what’s coming next.

— Andy Argyrakis


Category: Featured, Live Reviews, Weekly

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  1. waiting you at peter gabriel fanclub
    leave the link with your blog.
    i try to create the biggest community on internet,