On September 18th, 2012 I drove to Montreal to see Peter Gabriel. This was almost a habit, of the four times (I believe) I’ve seen Mr. Gabriel three of those shows had been in Montreal (the other was closing out Woodstock ’94), and here he was reliving the So tour, which I saw in Montreal as part of the Amnesty International tour exactly twenty-four years plus one day before this concert.
That first show had shocked me. Gabriel’s energy, his amazing stage show that saw him clamouring about the stage like a monkey while aircraft-landing lights mounted on movable pedestals followed his every move, his poignancy on songs like Biko and Red Rain; I was literally in tears when he left the stage back in 1988. And none of his shows I had seen since had even come close to capturing that magic. Woodstock approached it, but the other two shows were almost yawners. It’s the memory of that first time that keeps my coming back.
And you know, he almost hit it again. This tour was, after all, a recreation of the initial tour I saw, right down to the hydraulic lights and the monkey act. Of course youth (both Gabriel’s and mine), surprise, and the wonder they create were all lacking this time around so even the Biko closer couldn’t moisten my eyes like the first time, but it was a good taste.
But y’know, I’m not a big fan of this new(ish) trend of recreating former, more successful tours, nor the whole “we’re gonna play the entire album” tours. The shows lack a fairly big element of surprise for one thing but more importantly they are trying to supply something they can’t, and that is the ability to have been there when it first happened, and if you weren’t there no amount of pretending or recreating is going to change that fact.
Better to “be there” for a new, original tour than pretending to “be there” the second or third time around.
I’m looking at you, Beatlemania (and Dark Star Orchestra and Musical Box and…)
But to be honest I’m really glad he used those lights again. They were really, really cool and I’ve been talking about them for almost thirty years.