SANTA BARBARA BOWL
09 OCTOBER, 2012
On a beautiful fall evening at the Santa Barbara Bowl, Peter Gabriel returned to grace the stage. Having been here for the first time last year with his orchestral tour, this evening's business was a look back to the album So, played in its entirety, and then some, by his band from that era: Tony Levin, Manu Katché, David Rhodes, and David Sancious, along with the backing singers who served as his opening act.
Each player brought his own special magic to the proceedings: Rhodes guitar added fire and grit, and E Street Band veteran Sancious ruled the roost from behind his keyboards, adding a notable swing to the arrangements, especially on "No Self Control". The reputation of the rhythm section, Tony Levin and Manu Katché certainly precedes itself, the only question being: would the pairing of the two on the same stage leave enough oxygen in the atmosphere? Levin was a focal point throughout the evening, and Katché handled percussion duties with great aplomb, doing intricate things effortlessly.
The show was billed as "So-Back To Front", and Gabriel came out to introduce the format with a sly reference to a multi-course meal, explaining the sets of acoustic and lesser heard music, a full band set, and finally, So in its entirety.
The acoustic set began with a beautiful unfinished song, then proceeded to Secret World era songs, before the first jaw-dropping moment of the night, a harrowing "Family Snapshot", from his third solo LP. Other highlights of the first two sets were a crowd aided "Solsbury Hill", and a transcendant take on "Washing Of The Water".
The So portion was fascinating to audience watch. By far his most commercially successful effort, the audience gave full vocal support to the hits "Big Time" and "Sledgehammer", but its easy to forget that this album sprung from a dark period in Gabriel's life, as "Don't Give Up" certainly pointed at. The major set piece, "Mercy Street", featured Gabriel singing flat on his back, curling into a fetal position, but managing to maintain complete control over the audience.
An unexpected bonus to the So set was the inclusion of the rarely heard "This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds)", originally a duet with Laurie Anderson. The night's final surprise was an onstage appearance from actor John Cusack and director Cameron Crowe, who's inclusion of "In Your Eyes" in a pivotal scene in "Say Anything", not only ensured the classic stature of the song itself, but gave a healthy second wind to an LP already in release, and Gabriel was effusive in his thanks. As a movie town, Santa Barbara certainly ate it up.
No matter what the program, it seems, a Peter Gabriel show will close with "Biko", and this was no exception. The echoes of what may be Gabriel's finest moment rang around the surrounding hills, long into the night.
|John Cusack, onstage at the Santa Barbara Bowl, photo courtesy of Peter Gabriel|
Peter Gabriel is offering recordings of all* of the shows from this tour as part of his Encore Series.
*The caveat, of course, being this show..."Due to arena restrictions, the Santa Barbara show will not be part of the Peter Gabriel 2012 Encore Series."