Peter Gabriel & The New Blood Orchestra

Wednesday 23rd March 2011

Hammersmith Apollo, London

Arriving at the Apollo, Jane and I were unsure of what we were about to see, or hear. Jane has been a fan of Gabriel/Genesis since the 70’s and is the first to admit that whilst Peter Gabriel has a great voice and is a very innovative musician, he can be a bit weird at times. What we did get was something very special. Anybody who was looking for the old Peter Gabriel hopping round the stage in pixie boots and a flowerpot man hat was very disappointed, as the house lights dimmed a casually dressed Gabriel walked on stage without build-up or fanfare and quietly announced that the Norwegian born singer Ane Brun would open the proceedings (with a couple of folksy songs).

Gabriel then took the stage together with New Blood Orchestra, conducted by John Metcalfe, and launched into a brilliant first session including the vaguely sinister “Intruder”, “Wallflower”, a slow tempo version of Paul Simons “Graceland” hit “The Boy in the Bubble” and “Power of the Heart”, backing vocals were provided on stage by Ane Brun and Gabriel’s daughter Melanie. Throughout the performance, a series of surreal lasers, films, animations and slogans were projected onto the set and somehow always seemed to suit the music and mood when combined with Gabriel’s unique haunting and lilting voice.

The second session was far lighter with "San Jacinto", "Digging in the Dirt" and “Rhythm of the Heat” all getting the full orchestral treatment (all arranged by John Metcalfe) and finishing with “Solsbury Hill”. As an encore, we were treated to “Don’t Give Up” for which he was joined on stage again by Ane Brun who absolutely nailed the Kate Bush part.

Verdict: An incredible performance by a master of his craft, two hours which are something of an emotional rollercoaster and during which you find out that Peter Gabriel can still reach out with his voice, touch your soul and make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. Brilliant!

Mark Piper