|Peter's Setlist||Pictures||Recorded Output|
||Once again, all I got is already displayed down here, so no need for a proper "gallery"||First and foremost there are the official releases on vhs and dvd.
The first one is only about 100 minutes long, and leaves out quite a few bits off the original sets (unfortunately, this means that the only song included from Peter's already brief set is Signal To Noise).
On the dvd you also get In Your Eyes, while Red Rain is out of both). Both songs that Peter helped Youssou with are on both formats...)
(This review was first posted on Solsbury Hill, to which I strongly recommend a visit!)
Lights went out and the first batch of videos began to show: it was actually the same video made in 1988 by a number of excellent visual artists from all over the world to illustrate each and every one of the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mixed with them, however, were some bits and pieces of Amnesty documentaries, a promotional clip (done for the US, I expect) of Amnesty's Get Up Sign Up campaign in support of the UDHR which featured among others, Michael Stipe, Harry Belafonte, Gabriel Byrne, more actors and actresses of different kinds... Also, interspersed with these images, was footage from the 1990 "Abrazo a la Esperanza" show held in Chile, which also featured Tracy, Peter, Sting, Inti Illimani, Sinead O'Connor and more.
Finally, the show got a kick start thanks to the 4 "survivors" from 1988 Human Rights Now Tour: Tracy Chapman, Peter Gabriel, Youssou N'Dour and Bruce Springsteen took to the stage, sort of picking up the thread with the same song that opened (and closed) the shows of a decade ago: Bob Marley's "Get Up Stand Up" (a full PG version of which, as it has previously been pointed out, can be found here
Then everybody (including Youssou's musicians that had been the backing band for the quartet) left the stage to Peter Gabriel, who in turn introduced (in his croaking french) The Boss, who gave us four songs alone on acoustic guitar and nothinbg else. Not being a huge fan (my knowledge of Springsteeniana doesn't cover too many song titles apart from the obvious hits) I only recognized two tracks: The Ghost Of Tom Joad and Born In The USA (a version similar in mood to the one on the recent boxed set, rather than the radio friendly super-smash). Now, as always, my girlfriend comes to aid telling me that the other two tracks were Working On The Highway and Not Surrender (both from the Born in the USA album).
In the middle of his second number the monitor speaker stopped working, as well (it seemed from a distance) as his guitar jack: after three or four tries he had to give up and walked to the back of the stage for a few seconds, only to re-emerge with the very best help (self proclaimed in countless occasions on his own tours: check Family Snapshot from the Cardiff concert from March 1980 - on the bootleg Chromedome,for example - or even his very first ever solo gig in Passaic, March 1977) in case of technical fuck-ups: ladies and gents, Mr. Gabriel re-enters the stage to babble some incoherent words (too busy laughing: yes even the great ones can screw it up) in a microphone that didn't work.
Exit Mr. Gabriel and Bruce finally delivers his last numbers. A standing ovation - and a really touching moment at that - welcomed the Dalai Lama on stage, introduced by Pierre Sané the secretary general of Amnesty International France and Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, who sponsored the whole day as well as actively being involved in the Get Up Sign Up campaign all over the world. Not your everyday's rockstar, he actually gave a brief but straight to the point speech about how the new generations are those in whose hands the application of the UDHR lies. More cheers and back to the actual show.
It was time for Tracy Chapman to come back, and for me the surprise (I hadn't seen her since '88) was that she actually had a band with her: and it helped a lot on her songs, from the new ones to the very classic Talkin' Bout The Revolution, one of 88's strongest points and '98's as well.
More waiting for the stage to be cleared and some more videos help killing the time till the next set. And yes, we could see the usual piano and effects setup being introduced on the left of the stage by the very same Dickie Chappel (Peter's personal technician both live and on tour), while I must say that the drums brought forward didn't look much like the regular Manu Katche's kit (not enough pieces and especially cymbals...) - but it turned out to be his after all.
While the techies were still checking microphones and wiring things up, Peter made a discreet entrance and started his own check up of the piano and lyric sheets in plain view on his right... But before he could start with his first number Bruce Springsteen walked back in, and reading (badly - Peter is in a different league!!!) from a piece of phonetic handwriting returned Gabriel's favour of an hour before.
And now for something complmetely different... After four years we were finally ready to hear Peter's first live outburst (not just made for tv cameras).
With the first number, Red Rain, we're immediately brought back to the usual atmosphere: namely, lyric forgetting, not-too-well-dissimulated tries at pretending he is working on a new version of the song, the odd bum note on the piano. In short, a thrilling performance which having begun with only piano and voice slowly gathers momentum (enter Youssou's bass player and percussionists, David Rhodes and the aforementioned Manu), only to finish with the usual heartfelt passion of piano and voice again.
Second number: Signal To Noise. A hard one to judge.
After the VH-1 mind-blowing sense-crushing version, thanks not a few to Nusrat's amazing improvisations, tonight's reworking lacks the Qawwali Maestro refined arabesques, but in a certain way makes up for it with a staggering powerful beat and Youssou's equally powerful vocals: it's a magical number, and if the album version turns out to be a cross between the two executions I heard until now it might really come out as one of all time's masterpieces (and "Up" will feature Nusrat's voice, according to what Peter told me two years ago or so - mind you: he might have changed his mind about it over two dozens time by now...).
Third and - sob! - final number of his set is In Your Eyes. Joined once more by Youssou, Peter delivers a "normal" version of the song, and everybody can see he still does enjoy the vocal calls and responses with the second voice that we learned to love ever since the 1987 tour (check the POV video - much much better, musically, than the SWL one). Gloom and despair accompanied Peter off stage.
Yet more videos and then a hal hour of Alanis Morissette. Though I liked her first album a lot, as well as her song from the City of Angels soundtrack (haven't listend to the new cd yet), her live delivery is a bit on the tedious side. The songs are all good, but the arrangements don't help, and they all tend to sound a bit too similar to one another.
Two more legends (the first two obviously being Peter and Bruce...) take the stage for an excellent 40 minutes set: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, both probably in their fifties or more, still have fun rocking and rolling, and their songs sound as good now as they did over twenty years ago. Raw energy and musical mastership are the words that better characterize their performance.
A longer intermission (and, you guessed, more videos) made the way for Radiohead's only European performance this year. It's immediately clear that most of the 12-15.000 audience is there just to see them. And they do not disappoint their fans: though some magazines had announced a special set, entirely made up of new numbers from their next album, in fact they just played material from the OK Computer album and a couple of older hits. A brilliant performance nonetheless, and though I still frankly cannot see why the press has often labelled them as a Progressive Rock band for the Nineties, I deeply enjoy their music (I had seen them live once before, but compared to the gig in Milan - where the sound is always so bad you keep wondering what on earth pushes you to buy tickets all the time - this sounded spotless!).
It was past midnight by the end of their set, and notwithstanding the halfed crowed Youssou came on stage with a wide green. He might not be huge in the States, but in Europe and especially in France he is "big league" by now, and he behaved accordingly. For his second number he introduced - thank goodness - none other than Peter himself. Together they gave us a largely re-worked version of Shakin' The Tree. Re-worked? Yes indeed, not because new arrangements, but once again thanks to Peter reliability on fucking up lyrics (and probably old contact lenses, as he couldn't read, much as he tried, the lyrics sheet taped to the floor before his microphone). Fortunately, as always, he more than made up for it in the finale of the song, giving us some wild and emotional harmonies (some might call them shrieks, but that's my view...) that chilled many a backbone.
For Youssou's last number Jocelyne and Tracy joined Peter as backing vocals for the a (frankly quite poor) rendition of the worldwide top ten single "7 seconds". I'd rather not go into details about this, as I was frankly embarrassed on "many" a performers' behalf for missing cues and (yup) forgetting lyrics again (and they weren't much harder than "Seven seconds away, just as long as I stay, I'll be waiting..."). The end of the song did try to repeat the previous number success, but simply didn't.
Exit our heroes - and 7/8ths of the audience - to leave twenty minutes of rambling rap to the Asian Dub Foundation. Nothing I feel competent about in judging, except for pointing out that I do not like them because of something they told the press in the past, accusing Peter's Real World label of giving Western audinces a much too polished and edulcorated version of what constitutes world music nowadays: sorry folks, but the worst RW album is simply thirty zillions times better than anything you have (or will/could) ever produce.
I did wait a bit more to see if anybody would decide to come back on stage for a final encore, but the lights went up and there was nothing else to do but get back to the hotel with a warm feeling inside. First, we had paid half a fortune for the tickets, but it was all for a great cause. Secondly, we had over six hours of music and 5 and a half of them were absolutely first class. Last but certainly not least, we had seen Peter on a stage again: this was the hundreth-something time, for me, but invariably the experience turns out to be sheer magic (and if I sounded cynical about the whole thing, it's probably only due to excessive love!).