Tonight we have my nephews and niece staying with us while their Dad goes to see Peter Gabriel at the O2. He bought the tickets with his mate ages ago and didn’t realise that his wife would be away this weekend. So during the week I got a text off him saying I could either a) have his ticket and go to the concert or b) look after the kids while he went. As we hadn’t actually seen Noah since he was born 10 months ago we decided to go with option b!
After all I’ve never been a big Gabriel fan, I think his first solo album is brilliant but haven’t really liked more than a few tracks since then. Biko obviously and Games without Frontiers from the third album and possibly Sledgehammer if I’m in the right mood. On the whole though it’s not the sort of thing I can sit and listen to.
I’ve seen him a number of times over the years, mostly in the early part of his solo career. The first time was at Knebworth in 1978. Genesis had headlined the first Knebworth that year in one of their first major gigs without him. The second festival, called Oh God not another boring old Knebworth, featured The Boomtown Rats, Franks Zappa, The Tubes and Peter Gabriel. My brother and I went with our next door neighbour Steve Bittlestone and his friend from university.
The thing I remember most about his set was that he got onto the stage via a ladder with a panda strapped to his back, he then sat down at the piano and sang ” Me and my Teddy bear, got no worries, got no hair!” a reference to the fact that he had shaved most of the long hair he had in his Genesis days off. He also wore a white suit with an orange hi-vis jacket over the top. He did take this off though, replacing it with a leather jacket, for the final song which was the Genesis song The Lamb lies down on Broadway.
The next time I saw him was the following year at Reading festival where he appeared on the Sunday night with former Genesis band mate Phil Collins on drums. The show started with Collins beating out the rhythm for Biko on a huge drum while Gabriel sang the lyrics. I’m not sure if this was the first time he had performed the song live but we certainly hadn’t heard it and didn’t know what the fuck was going on!
Gabriel was this time wearing an orange jumpsuit and played a really great set. Another former Genesis member Steve Hackett had appeared the previous day and everyone was expecting him to join Gabriel on stage so the fact Phil Collins turned up was quite a surprise. At the end of the show Gabriel and Collins donned the leather jackets and sang The Lamb lies down on Broadway again.
Then the following year I saw him again at the City Hall in Newcastle. We had quite good seats as I recall being a few rows back in the centre. The tour was entitled, for some reason probably known only to him, the 1984 Tour of China and the program was a small red book like the one Chairman Mao used to hand out! The lighting on the stage was quite basic, mostly white lights, and was meant to look futuristic but now looks very dated. This time he was wearing a black jump suit!
He was also using a radio microphone which was quite a new technology at the time and seemed to be having a number of problems with it as he kept hitting it. At one point during Games without Frontiers he jumped into the audience and made his way along the row next to us getting people to sing the jeux sans frontier bit into the microphone. Me and my mate Nick grabbed it as he went past and screamed into it, don’t know if it came out of the PA or not – hopefully not!
That was the last time I purposely went to see him, I did see him at Glastonbury with Youssou N’Dour when he came along to join in on the hit they had had together Shakin’ the tree. I also seem to recall that he played at Glastonbury one year but I’m not sure if I saw him – probably only in passing if I did.
The photographs on this page are the ones I took at Newcastle City Hall in 1980 and as you can see the stark white lights didn’t do the pictures any favours. The other images from Knebworth and Reading were taken by a photographer called Alan Perry and you can buy prints from these two shows and many other shows by a huge range of artistes from his site.