Wednesday, August 8, 2012

In Your Eyes

I saw Peter Gabriel in concert twice following his So album hitting the world in 1986. Once at Great Woods in Massachusetts in the Summer of 1987 (Scott was there as well, as was a large merry band of pals), and then again a year later in Montreal as part of the star-studded Human Rights Now! tour that Amnesty International put together.

I thought then as I think now—the sheer enjoyment and theatrical wonder that Peter Gabriel put into those concerts was a sight to behold. Maybe he's not Bruce Springsteen live, but that's only because they offer such different performances. Bruce's are longer, have more diverse setlists and (brilliantly) evoke the spirit of a rock-n-roll revival. PG's concerts back then (and in some tours that followed, though I can't speak to the last few ones he's had) created a pulse entirely of their own, a perfectly executed ballet of music and movement and light and energy, all adding up to a sensual contact with the audience that few performers are ever able to achieve.

At different times during those shows, PG stood stationary at the piano bathed in blues and greens ("Family Snapshot," "Here Comes the Flood"), was pretty much attacked by crane lights as he sang about visceral disconnection from his faculties ("No Self Control"), careened across the stage with athleticism that would have made his Amnesty tour pal Springsteen proud ("Shock the Monkey," "Sledgehammer"), literally lay on the stage, bathed in a womb-like red glow while he sang ("Mercy Street"), dived into the audience and allowed himself to be swallowed up in complete surrender ("Lay Your Hands On Me") or simply stood center stage holding court with anthems of human destruction and perserverance ("San Jacinto," which opened many of those shows, and "Biko," which always closed them).

There was formula in the songs he played, to be sure (although at the Great Woods show he stunned the audience by announcing "Solsbury Hill," a song he hadn't performed much on the first leg of that tour). But there was no formula to the investment PG made in his audience, and to the way the crowd members reacted. It was soulful and stagy, political and sexual, whimsical and melodramatic. It was rock-n-roll, to its very core.

But best of all came at the encore. As I said, he closed every show back then with his anti-apartheid clarion call "Biko." But the way he opened those encores centered on one of the best songs he has ever written, if not the best: "In Your Eyes."

"In Your Eyes" is the centerpiece of the fabulous So album, a love song about offering oneself up unconditionally to something greater. With an African rhythm serving as its heartbeat and David Rhodes (guitar), Tony Levin (bass) and Manu Katche (drums) creating some sheerly fascinating and understated interplay behind the synth-driven melody, "In Your Eyes" remains as fresh and exciting now as it was when it was when released more than a quarter of a century ago.

And amazingly, he made it even better live. Stretching the song to nearly double its studio length, adding lyrics and significantly expanding the parts of Senegalese star Youssou N'Dour and his band, "In Your Eyes" turned into a celebration onstage. An affirmation of all that music can do for us and to us, a rhythmic free-for-all of color and motion and spiritual unity with those watching and singing along. When PG sings "I see the doorway to a thousand churches, a resolution to all the fruitless searches," we get it, and we know exactly where he wants to take us.

Here's a decent video of it, from the same year I saw him, in 1987—you'll get the idea.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, DT - and I have a picture of said merry band taken in the Great Woods parking lot - may have to post it one of these days.