|The one and only Peter Gabriel. I was lucky enough to have a floor seat for his 'Back to Front' tour when he played the Centre Bell in Montreal on Tuesday, September 18|
"You're on a trip. Enjoy that trip, it comes through the breath. When the breath stops, the trip stops."
So said my yoga instructor at Ashtanga Yoga last weekend. Well, she was right. My breath was there all through yoga practice but I think it stopped a few times when I went to the Centre Bell on Tuesday night to watch Peter Gabriel's 'Back to Front' tour from a floor level seat about 10 rows back.
What a show Mr. Gabriel put on for everyone that night. As the Montreal Gazette pointed out, it's rare for the future looking artist to glance in the rear view mirror, but he did on Tuesday night, and to great effect. The 'So' tour is based around the album of the same name, released in 1986. The year I was born.
He entered from stage right to massive applause. I watched his mouth turn down at the corners in that uniquely self conscious British way. The way that says 'all this noise for me? Thank you, but please, don't.' Wearing a monkish black vest over an even more monkish long sleeved grey shirt buttoned to the collar, he presided over the evening with a businesslike courtesy. He spoke French in between the songs, hesitating slightly as the artiste britannique worked to find the correct phrasing.
Joining Gabriel for the night were the same players who toured with him following the release of So. They included Tony Levin, also looking monkish in a brown flowing robe, and David Rhodes on guitar. Manu Katché manned the drums. Jennie Abrahamson helped by filling in for the role of Kate Bush on 'Don't Give Up' (and by being a wonderful backing singer)
He opened with a slinky, sliding version of 'Shock the Monkey.' I've always thought about the song as if it was written by a burdened office drone who's about to snap under the pressure. This rendition did a perfect job of building creeping tension.
Following this, Gabriel moved into the second part of a three part concert. The first being acoustic, the second being electric, and the third and final being So itself. 'No Self Control' and 'Digging in the Dirt' have a punchy emotional energy when played live. Gabriel's dance moves were a welcome addition here - the man may be in his sixties, but he can still shake it.
Of course most of the audience was waiting for the 'troisieme partie.' Hits like 'Red Rain' and 'Sledgehammer' are meant to move you, and they did just that. I found myself singing along for most of the concert. To be just 10 rows back from front was a real treat.
I think of Gabriel as one of the few remaining acts from the 70s' who really pushed the inventive envelope. David Bowie is another. Their songs touch on so many things that are part of the human experience. Love, loneliness, the changes we face growing up. It's all there in the back catalogs. The songs are timeless and the imagery unforgettable.
I'd tip my hat to you if I wore one Peter. Good show.
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A final note, some of you who read this blog know that I moved to Montreal during this past summer. I'd like to thank a couple old friends, Robin and Michael, for welcoming me to la belle province. And to John Scythes for helping me make the move.
I'd also like to thank my former room mate, Phil, for making this l'etranger anglais's landing in a strange new place that much easier. Your friendly disposition and helpfulness in pointing out important Montreal landmarks and eateries (St. Viatur's Bagels and various poutine hotspots among them) was much appreciated.
Now that summer's over it's time to break out the winter gear. I'm looking forward to spending winter here, enjoying everything the snowy city on the island has to offer. If you know anyone who's selling a good pair of used men's skates, drop me a line.