Peter Gabriel at Red Rocks, 9/30/12
Jon Solomon Peter Gabriel last night at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
PETER GABRIEL @ RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATRE | 9/30/12
Shortly before launching into an epic set that spanned nearly three hours at Red Rocks last night, Peter Gabriel took the tack of a well trained maître d', explaining that the program would come in three courses, kicking off with a four-song acoustic set followed by "electric bit" composed of tunes pulled from the entirety of his thirty-year-plus career, culminating with a song-by-song recreation of the seminal 1986 album So. The 62-year-old then went on to deliver a stunning and rich show that mixed top-notch musicianship and performance art with a knack for old-fashioned theatrics.
See also: Peter Gabriel at Red Rocks, 6/13/11
The performance had a much different feel from Gabriel's appearance at the same venue with the New Blood Orchestra last year. In 2011, Gabriel showed up in Morrison with a full orchestra, forgoing his usual art-rock approach for a sound that would have suited a concert hall. Sunday's show was all about returning to Gabriel's roots as a tour-de-force stadium act, an artist who can seamlessly mix elements of pop, funk, soul, progressive rock and performance art in a single elaborate stage show.
Jon Solomon Peter Gabriel at Red Rocks last night.
Gabriel drew on a familiar cast of supporting musicians to create that vibe. Indeed, the band comprised musicians who helped create the sound of So in the studio, as well as newer arrivals to Gabriel's troupe. Drummer Manu Katché, bassist Tony Levin and guitarist David Rhodes joined longtime Gabriel alum David Sancious on keyboards and Swedish backup vocalists Linnea Olson and Jennie Abrahamson. The band found a complement in Gabriel's trademark flair for complex theatrics. The Red Rocks stage was filled to bursting with instruments, massive light rigs fixed on giant tracks, a quintet of LED screen against the back of the stage and a giant circular piece that hung from the top of the stage for the majority of the show.
With consummate skill from the sextet, Gabriel recreated all nine tracks from So with precision and feeling. What's more, the band offered fresh takes on tunes from the rest of his oeuvre, creating a sparkling musical montage of an impressive career. Like last year, Gabriel appeared onstage alone before any musician picked up an instrument, dressed simply and starkly in a long black vest that matched the color of his shirt, boots and slacks.
Jon Solomon Peter Gabriel last night at Red Rocks.
He started with a paean to the venue itself, declaring, "It's very good to be back here, in what must be the world's most beautiful arena." Gabriel went on to explain that the opening act from last year, backup singer and Norwegian singer-songwriter Ane Brun, had fallen ill and would be unable to play a warm-up set. Her replacement came in a paired act from Olson and Abrahamson. Abrahamson led the opening set on vocals and piano, with Olson as accompaniment on the viola. Songs like "Hard to Come By" and "Falling" featured sparse and elegant piano work, plodding viola lines and soothing, understated vocals from Abrahamson.
After the duo's short set, a team of crew members decked in red jumpsuits started converting the stage for the main event. Gabriel appeared alone for a second time, spelling out the three-course approach of the show and announcing that he'd kick off the night with a new song, a piano ballad that lacked any definite lyrics or title. With the help of King Crimson alum Levin, Gabriel started the set with a lilting and free-form tune. After a false start, he made his way through a musical draft, spelling out a general melody and singing indefinite lyrics in an improvisatory, vocalese form. "If anyone had lyrics (from that) ... send them to petergabriel.com," Gabriel joked after wrapping up.