Review: PETER GABRIEL I/O TOUR at Nationwide Area

Gabriel remains immune to time passages

By: Sep. 26, 2023
Review: PETER GABRIEL I/O TOUR at Nationwide Area

A gigantic digital image of a grandfather clock was projected on the video screen above Nationwide Arena, slightly before the beginning of Peter Gabriel’s i/o concert on Sept. 25.

Once the hands struck 8 p.m., the time Gabriel strutted on stage, the clock disappeared. The message was clear: Gabriel is not subjected to the laws of time.

 I have seen the former Genesis lead singer in exact 20-year intervals – 1983, 2003, and 2023. While the man is clearly not the same guy who swung from the rafters during “Shock the Monkey” in 1983 or rolled across the stage in an enormous hamster ball in 2003, the quality and artistry of a Gabriel show has not diminished.

Gabriel explained this mystery to the faithful before launching into soothing acoustic version of “Washing of the Water.”

What the audience was watching was fake.

“It might surprise you to learn that you’re looking at an avatar,” Gabriel joked as he removed a news boy cap to reveal a shiny noggin. “But …my avatar is 20 years older, 20 pounds heavier and completely bald. Meanwhile, I’m ripped and lying on a beach…"

Despite being 73, Gabriel keeps himself young and his concerts relevant by finding the right group of musicians, both old and new, to complement his style, adding artistic flair to make the product visually appealing, and slicing away for the realms of predictability.

Gabriel began “Washing Of The Water” with just himself and long time stick player/bassist Tony Levin and then slowly added long time bandmates David Rhodes (guitar) and Manu Katche (drums) and new editions, Don-E (keyboards and vocals), Richard Evans (guitar and wind instruments), Ayanna Witter-Johnson (Cello, Piano, Vocals) and Marina Moore (violin, viola, and vocals).

All totaled, Levin (46 years), Rhodes (43) and Katche (36) have been with Gabriel for 125 years combined. That familiarity paid off on fan favorites like “Big Time,” “Solsbury Hill,” and “In Your Eyes.” In the latter, Gabriel handed over the microphone over to Levin, who began the song with his deep bass repeating the phrase, “In Your Eyes.” A woman out in the audience held a poster of a gigantic boombox to imitate the iconic scene from SAY ANYTHING.

While they flowed together musically, the only time Rhodes, Gabriel, and Levin were out of sync was when they tried to dance in harmony. If it were a ballet, it would’ve been titled “Three Bald Men in Badly Need of Choreographer.”

Evans, Witter-Johnson, and Moore brought something different to the show. Evans’ penny whistle gave certain numbers a classic Celtic feel, while Moore and Witter-Johnson’s strings gave tunes a brooding melody. Witter-Johnson took over the accompanying vocals of “Don’t Give Up” (originally sung by Kate Bush). Her voice gave the song a much needed sense of hope and encouragement to Gabriel’s voice of the downtrodden.

Gabriel is a rarity among his fellow elder statesmen of rock. Most survive by being entertainers; people like Gabriel, David Byrne, and the late David Bowie flourish by performing artists. Now that might seem a little bit of haughty praise, but we need both types of performers. Gabriel is not a comedian or a gospel preacher; he is more like a painter using melodies and rhythm to create dream landscapes. After not touring for seven years, the singer conspired with Ai Weiwei and Aardman Animation to create something visually stunning to accompany his music. In the first song of the second set, “Darkness,” Gabriel stood behind a collection of screens and used a wand to add splashes of colors to the paintings projected on it. During “This Is Home” a number of frying pans cooking various objects flashed up on the screen. Odd? Yes, Weird? Yes. Original? Also yes.

As an artist, Gabriel seemed concerned where Artificial Intelligence is leading the world.

“So, I grew up on a dairy farm and the only fellow who would be afraid by A.I. was the bull because A.I. stool for artificial insemination,” Gabriel mused. “Now it’s starting to feel like we are the bull.”

Finally, Gabriel didn’t deliver something neatly packaged or consumer friendly. He chose not to play it safe with a greatest hits concert. Gabriel appears to believe in the i/o album, with 11 out of the 23 songs he played being from the new album. To do that, he trimmed away some of his fan favorites. “Shock The Monkey,” “Games Without Frontiers,” “Come Talk to Me,” and “Here Comes the Flood” were among the cast-off casualties.

At this time, it is uncertain if some or any of the new songs will become fan favorites. The only way to is to wait another 20 years.


Photo Credit: GREGG BARRTRAM/Nationwide Arena

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