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Peter Gabriel performs album 'So' and electrifies crowd at Wells Fargo Center

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Peter Gabriel is certainly one interesting artist.

Despite not having released a new studio album in ten years, he always manages to keep his fan base intrigued and captivated after decades of hit albums, soundtrack compilations and other numerous projects. Whether he is performing his best known songs or covering songs of other artists with an orchestra, Gabriel’s success over the last three decades has given him the artistic freedom to perform whatever he likes whenever he likes.Peter Gabriel photo: Chris Grasso

Though he’s not normally one to look back on the past, the human rights activist and six-time Grammy Award Winner has decided to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his landmark album So (although it’s technically 26 years, Gabriel acknowledges the delay for quality reasons) with his ‘Back to Front Tour.’ 

And on Friday night at Wells Fargo Center, it didn’t matter to the crowd how many years had elapsed since Gabriel released the album that gained him worldwide popularity as well as MTV icon status. As the show began, the former Genesis frontman took to the stage with thunderous applause and personally addressed the audience to inform them the concert was being shot for a future DVD release.

The show was divided into three sets:  process, electric, the ‘So’ album. The first set was performed acoustically with the Wells Fargo Center lights remaining on for the four songs, which included hits “Come Talk to Me” (from 1992’s Us) and “Shock the Monkey.”   

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When the lights went out and the second set got underway is when the show really picked up steam (no pun intended). Gabriel was joined by his all-star band (which includes long time bassist Tony Levin, drummer Manu Katche, guitarist David Rhodes and original E Street Band member David Sancious) and performed classics “Digging in the Dirt,” deep tracks “The Family and the Fishing Net,”  and his first solo hit, “Solsbury Hill” before playing So from start to finish.

The album that was ranked in the Top 200 of Rolling Stone’s greatest albums of all time begins with longtime concert staple “Red Rain” and was followed by Gabriel’s lone #1 US hit, “Sledgehammer”-  MTV’s most played video of all-time. Other highlights were the emotional ballad “Don’t Give Up” (featuring backup singer Jennie Abrahamson stepping in for Kate Bush), “Mercy Street” (which saw Gabriel singing lying down on center stage), “Big Time,”  and the album’s closing track (and arguably Gabriel’s best song), the powerful “In Your Eyes.”  If you aren’t moved by an entire arena singing that song in unison, you should question whether you truly have a soul.

From his days of wearing flower costumes in Genesis to his entire band having shaved heads, Gabriel always puts on a show, and Friday night was no exception. The theatrics and overall performance made the show a stPeter Gabriel photo: Chris Grassoellar production from start to finish. Gabriel is always one on the cutting edge of visuals and technology, which resulted in multiple camera booms constantly shifting throughout the concert. You couldn’t help but feel as if a music video was being shot for every song in the set. Furthermore, Gabriel, at 62 years of age, even sounds better vocally live than he does on his albums.

A five star show from start to finish, Gabriel's ‘Back to Front Tour’ is a can’t miss spectacle. By the time he played setlist closer and encore “Biko,” everyone was pumping their fists in unison with the song’s chorus. After drummer Katche left the stage, it was quite evident that Peter Gabriel had yet again touched another audience, sending them home with an experience to remember.

Set list

Part 1:  Process

OBUT
Come Talk to me
Shock the Monkey
Family Snapshot

Part 2:  Electric set

Digging in the Dirt
Secret World
The Family and the Fishing Net
No Self Control
Solsbury Hill
Washing of the Water

Part 3:  So

Red Rain
Sledgehammer
Don’t Give Up
That Voice Again
Mercy Street
Big Time
We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)
This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)
In Your Eyes

Encore:

The Tower That Ate People
Biko

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Photos by Chris Grasso