With the album So now having celebrated its 25th Anniversary, Peter Gabriel is in full on reminiscing mode. Another remastered version is due in late October, along with a deluxe edition and a box set containing all kinds of extras. But when a tour was also announced, Metro Detroit was one of the lucky areas to make it on the schedule and as a long-time fan this became an instant must-see event.
Gabriel's current tour is centered around his commercial breakthrough album, with a promise of So performed in its entirety, hence the Back To Front Tour name. But So is barely over 45 minutes long so I was curious what type of format the show would follow. This was my first time seeing one of these 'perform a landmark album from start to finish' shows that are spreading like wildfire, especially with older, more established acts. Besides performing the complete album, Gabriel also brought back the entire band that toured with him behind So, including long time members Tony Levin on bass and guitarist David Rhodes.
After a short set by opening act Jennie Abrahamson who was joined by Linnea Olsson, Gabriel took to the stage and announced the show would be split into three parts. The first, an acoustic set with the house lights on, started with a new track, "OBUT", with only Levin joining Gabriel onstage. The full band then arrived for unique, stripped down versions of "Come Talk To Me", "Shock The Monkey" and "Family Snapshot".
The second part of the night was a six song "retro" look back at some of Gabriel's favorites in full versions, including two of his most affecting songs played live, "Digging In The Dirt" and "Secret World". And of course, the obligatory performance of "Solsbury Hill". This set ended with a lovely version of "Washing Of The Water" with Gabriel at piano.
The final set was, of course, the So album in its entirety, performed in the order it was put on the remaster, so "In Your Eyes" comes last. Abrahamson did an admirable job filling in for Kate Bush on "Don't Give Up" and, although it was fun hearing the big hits "Sledgehammer" and "Big Time" live again, the deeper album cuts provided many of the most intriguing performances. "That Voice Again" and "This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds)" stood out, as did the always gorgeous "Mercy Street".
After "In Your Eyes", I wasn't sure if there would be an encore as I purposefully avoided reading setlists for this tour before seeing the show. But they did come back for a surprising performance of "The Tower That Ate People" before the night closed with a song I had been hoping to cross off my concert bucket list. This was my third time seeing Gabriel live, but he had never played "Biko" at those previous two shows. However, as soon as that ominous keyboard note started I knew my wish was being granted. The song remains a powerhouse to this day and to finally see it performed live was a dream come true.
Although I enjoyed 2003's Growing Up Tour show more, also at The Palace of Auburn Hills, this was still another stellar night in the presence of a legend. At 62, Gabriel may not be able to hit all the high notes he once could, especially obvious on "Biko" where only the last verse was sung in his higher register, but he was still in fine voice overall and he's never settled for anything but top notch musicians to tour with.