The 73-year-old scores in the German capital in front of sold-out rows with a deeper meaning and well-dosed potential for ecstasy
Peter Gabriel is one of the most idiosyncratic artists in the rock world. Just as he was reaching a wider fan base and thus growing commercial success with his art rock band Genesis, he got out. It was the frontman’s fear of the mainstream. As a result, he went on alone, releasing a string of records (even in German!) and breaking through as a soloist with the 1986 album So. Not least because it brilliantly combined pop and avant-garde. With “Sledgehammer” or “Red Rain” he even managed single hits. Thanks to the financial reward, the Briton has since had the freedom not to have his artistic freedom curtailed by anyone, either in terms of content or time. He does what he wants and when he wants it. A long time ago he once said: “Isn’t it more questionable to put out a record every two years? Making music is like making children, you create something new that you have to take your time for before and after it’s born. I don’t rush deadlines, my Ego nor the visibility of my potency.”
In any case, the periods between Peter Gabriel’s studio albums are now almost as long as his hair is short. 21 years have passed since the last regular studio album “Up”, but the next one – “i/o” – is coming soon. But before that there is already a tour (the first since 2014), which made its first stop in Germany on Friday evening in the Berlin Waldbühne.
Who knows if and when he will come back?
Of course, the open-air venue was sold out in no time, if only because nobody knows when the 73-year-old will be coming to a concert next time. And if at all. The master of the unorthodox Art-Ethno-Rock-Pop, who with his little gray beard like afriendly monk is looking on the stage to say a few introductory phrases. In German, something you don’t see every day from a British superstar. It shows exceptional respect for his audience. It’s getting hard to tell the real from the fake, he said, only to jump on to the hottest oldie-pop presentation shit in modern entertainment: the abbatare. He is his own avatar, who unfortunately does not look like Peter Gabriel before, but is 20 years older and ten kilos heavier.
You can see them well in the dark
After the cryptic opening credits, he brought his friend Tony Lewin on stage and together they performed the German version of his 1977 song “Here Comes The Flood”. “The end draws near of flesh and blood/
Are the seas still/All around you is silence/Let yourself slip into the dark water”. No pop-along pop for middle-class people with a penchant for entertainment. Then the other band members join them and sit like a circle of friends on the tiered, semi-circular stage. Everyone is dressed in dark, while the technicians and sound mixers at the edge of the stage are all dressed in orange overalls, which seems like a reversal of the ratios: the artist stars inconspicuous, the technical staff in gaudy conspicuousness.
In the end, the perfect 80s world is back
Of course it’s not quite like that, because in the end the star isn’t the team, but the leader, who also wrote the songs. He sings some new tracks like “Panopticom”, “The Court” and of course the quiet “i/o”, but the cautious audience ecstasy only begins with the opening sounds of hits from the last millennium like “Digging In The Dirt” and “Sledgehammer “. The hits from the 80s album “So” in particular are enthusiastically applauded, “Red Rain”, “Don’t Give Up” and “Big Time”, which sounds like big band rock without brass. And then of course Gabriel’s first solo hit “Solsbury”, the ideal 80s world is there again.
Gabriel is probably one of the few in the Waldbühne who has the least feelings of nostalgia that evening. After the second encore song “Biko” he and his band leave. The audience is happy and I hope he is too.
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