Guest review: Fans prove So-So at Peter Gabriel show at Chicago's United Center
When it comes to Peter Gabriel fans, no Stuck in the '80s friend stands about our beloved "Bassnote" in Chicago. (Re-listen to the podcast we did together on Gabriel a few years ago.) So when we heard that Gabriel was taking his 25th anniversary tour to honor his album So to Chi-town, there was only one person we knew who could properly review the show for us. Take it away, Bassnote.
Peter Gabriel is not usually one to dwell on the past, but his tour last year with the New Blood Orchestra was all about reinterpreting his old songs. Once again He has strayed into his past to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his multi-platinum album “So.” He even brought along some old friends; the original band members from the 1986/87 “So” tour. The tour hit a packed United Center in Chicago Thursday night.
The show started promptly at 8:00 PM (something a lot of other artists – Prince – should take note of) with back up singer Jennie Abrahamson, who sounded like a young Kate Bush, doing a four-song solo set. After a short break to reset the stage, Gabriel came out and addressed the crowd. He explained that the show was going to be done in three parts: an acoustic set, and electric set, and then the “So” album.
The acoustic set started with Gabriel on piano, joined by Tony Levin on upright bass, doing an “unfinished” song called “OBUT.” It was “unfinished” because it had no distinguishable lyrics. The rest of the band joined him for “Come Talk To Me” from his 1992 “Us’ album. The song featured some great harmonies by Jennie Abrahamson and a second female back-up singer, Linnea Olsson. Gabriel seemed to have lost nothing of his fantastic voice either. The highlight of the acoustic set was a rousing rendition of the 1982 hit “Shock The Monkey.” It had the audience on its feet singing and clapping along.
My complaint with some of the audience is that many of them did not seem to know the songs from before the “So” album. Many were bewildered by a fantastic rendition of the song “Family Snapshot” from his 1980 self-titled album. The couple in front of me were surprised that I knew the lyrics and could sing along.
The second part of the show started with a scorching version of the 1992 hit “Digging In The Dirt.” David Rhode’s, distorted guitar riffs shook the rafters. It was followed by a sublime version of “Secret World.” The light show was highlighted by crewmembers dressed in dark jumpsuits and faceless masks operating lights on crane-like arms. The crewmembers at times reminded me Styx’s Kilroy character. Many audience members seemed indifferent about the older songs “The Family And The Fishing Net” and “No Self Control.” Granted, both of those songs sounded rushed to me, as if the band was not quite comfortable playing them yet. However, a spirited “Solsbury Hill” got everyone back on their feet.
Without taking a break, the band launched into “So.” The stage was washed in red light as the band thunder into “Red Rain.” The next song, “Sledgehammer”, had people dancing in the aisles. Jennie Abrahamson drew a great ovation from the crowd for her singing of Kate Bush’s parts on “Don’t Give Up.” The only hiccups in the set were the songs “That Voice Again” and “Mercy Street.” “That Voice Again,” like a few earlier songs, seemed rushed. The song “Mercy Street” seemed to be slightly abbreviated, as if Gabriel did not have the energy for the dramatic vocals he usually employs on the song. The songs “Big Time” and “This Is The Picture” were fun and energetic, and featured some surprising dance moves from the 62 year old Gabriel and his band. He ended the set with the fan favorite “In Your Eyes.”
Gabriel and band returned for a two-song encore. The raucous “The Tower That Ate People” (from 2000’s “Ovo”) featured David Rhodes shredding like Eddie Van Halen, and some seizure inducing lighting. The final song was Gabriel’s human rights anthem “Biko”, which had the crowd chanting well after Gabriel left the stage.
I enjoyed the show, but was disappointed he didn’t do more songs from before “So” for the other sets. That being said, it was still a concert worth seeing, and Gabriel always knows how to keep the audience engaged.