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Peter Gabriel - Plays Live CD (album) cover

PLAYS LIVE

Peter Gabriel

 

Crossover Prog

4.07 | 169 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Recorded in the Fall of 1982 while on tour through the Midwestern states and released as a double LP in 1983, these performances are an accurate summation of Peter Gabriel at that stage of his career. He had four solo albums under his belt and a few hit tunes but he was still considered a "fringe" artist by the general populace. This was before the album "So" (with "Sledgehammer," "Big Time" and "In Your Eyes") shot him into the MTV stratosphere of acceptance and made him a cultural icon. His concert audience during this tour consisted of loyal fans who had followed him since his early days as front man of Genesis, younger enthusiasts who had heard by word of mouth that he and his crackerjack band were not to be missed, and fickle curiosity seekers who only knew that he made some interesting videos.

"The Rhythm of the Heat" starts the show with an ominous, loud heartbeat-like pulse. "The rhythm has my SOUL!" Gabriel cries as the band explodes into a tribal onslaught of roaring drums. It's definitely not your usual concert opener and I'm sure some in the crowd were wondering what they'd gotten themselves into. The band confidently sets the pace for the next song, "I Have the Touch," where Peter pleads that he's "only wanting contact with you." This is followed by "Not One of Us" which turns out to be not one of the better songs on the list. It just never seems to connect and it's one of the rare dips in the road. "Family Snapshot" is better as it builds layer upon layer, revealing the disturbing tale of a notoriety-craving assassin who tells his intended victim that it's their fate and "I don't really hate you/I don't care what you do." It's a vivid image-invoking song and there's a segment after the climax when it almost seems like things shift into slow motion. It's a very effective piece of music.

"D.I.Y." (Do It Yourself) is a favorite of mine with its catchy 5/4 signature and conceited, narcissistic point of view and it works quite well in this live version. Once again Gabriel bucks conventional logic by performing the momentum-killing odd duck that is "The Family and the Fishing Net" with its long, drawn out construction. Yet that's precisely what made his concerts different from all others. Jerry Marotta's drums lay down the dangerous beats for the menacing "Intruder" where Gabriel warns "I know something about opening windows and doors" then whistles a breezy melody as if he's lurking in a dark alley doorway. (By now those in the audience unfamiliar with Peter's style were probably starting to think they were in the presence of a psychopath.) Then Tony Levin launches into the rocking bass lines of "I Go Swimming" and the dark mood lifts immediately. This irresistible song about a guy obsessed with water is one I had never heard before and it quickly became one of my favorites. "San Jacinto" is just one hell of a tune. Its trance-inducing aura of sound and "Sitting Bull Steakhouse" imagery is a wonder to behold. When the deep orchestral embellishment comes in during the second half and Peter boldly sings "I hold the line" it seems as if the whole arena levitates. You can easily imagine ghosts and apparitions of Indian ancestors wandering the stage during the closing moments of the song. When David Rhodes' guitar intro to "Solsbury Hill" starts up you can almost hear the sigh of relief from a portion of the audience to finally hear something familiar. It's a true if not slightly perfunctory rendition of Gabriel's signature tune.

"No Self Control" takes you right back into disturbing territory as Peter relates the story of a serial killer who laments "I don't know how to stop." Morotta's stabbing accents are perfect for this creepy song. Levin steps up front again to lead the band into the fun and funky "I Don't Remember," another tune that is high on my list. Another round of recognition-fueled cheers greets "Shock the Monkey." It's played faster than the studio version but it still seems a bit drawn out to me at just under eight minutes. "Humdrum" follows and it's an unexpected treat from Peter's debut album. It plays around with an unusual tango-ish rhythm before evolving into a grandiose wall of sound provided by Larry Fast's expert keyboards. It's another high point of the set for me. "On the Air" is a high velocity rocker about a deranged rogue DJ and Levin puts on a virtual Stick clinic at the end of it. "Biko" is the perfect closer and Fast's synthesized bagpipe sound fills the room. It is such a powerful song with such an overwhelming chorus that it's hard to imagine Gabriel wrapping the concert up with anything else. It's an emotional, moving finale to a great show.

There is a message that accompanies the packaging that reads "some additional recording took place... The generic term of this process is 'cheating.'" This may explain why there's a lack of "room" ambience to the whole thing and why it comes off as being rather controlled. It doesn't bother me at all. If this was an AC/DC show I might be offended but this is very eclectic, atmospheric music. All in all this is an excellent live album that captures the essence of Peter Gabriel and his merry men as they attempted to enlighten the world and lead the fight against complacent, banal music in the early 1980s.

Chicapah | 4/5 |

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