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Peter Gabriel - Plays Live CD (album) cover

PLAYS LIVE

Peter Gabriel

 

Crossover Prog

4.08 | 177 ratings

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lazland
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Originally released in 1983, I purchased this as a long play cassette. For a number of years, this and vinyl were the only formats in which you could purchase the full version of the show, the CD version initially released as a "highlights" package, much shortened, for reasons only known, I suppose, to the record company themselves. It is now available as a full length version on disc, so the question is, is it worth it?

Well, I love Gabriel, and own everything he has done. I have also seen him live a number of times, and have purchased all of the DVD's he has released. This was the first solo live album he got out, in addition to it being his fifth album overall as a solo artist.

The lineup of Gabriel, Fast, Marotta, Levin, and Rhodes, is that which overwhelmingly performed the classic III (Melt) and far more experimentally, but not commercially, successful IV (Security) albums, and it is from these that much of the material is recreated. In other words, when Gabriel was relatively successful, but still very much a cult prog artist, beloved by those of us who remembered him from Genesis, and prior to the world- conquering So. I actually missed this tour, owing to the fact that I was undergoing basic training in the Royal Air Force that summer.

However, having seen prior and subsequent tours, my criticism of this live effort is actually much the same as those I have with most of the live albums released by Genesis, either with or without Gabriel. For even including the exceptional Seconds Out, they all share a commonality. This being that the incredible interaction between artist(s) and audience is virtually absent. Indeed, on much of this, if you did not hear the crowd cheering, and the occasional pronouncement by the great man, you would be forgiven for thinking that he was playing live in front of the cow shed at home.

That is not to say that this is a bad album. With material like this, it could never be described as that. Not One Of Us is menacing, with Marotta putting in a fine drumming performance especially. One of my all time Gabriel favourites, Family Snapshot, is beautifully performed, as is San Jacinto, where you can almost touch the Native American spirits guiding the narrative. On The Air also raises the tempo, albeit a bit late in the day.

My personal highlight here is the, as stated in the song introduction, very rarely performed Humdrum, which is the one track here which absolutely outshines its studio version. Deeply mournful, and performed with a passion and sympathy that really would have been welcomed right across the piece.

For tracks such as DIY, The Family And The Fishing Net, Intruder, No Self Control, and, sadly, Shock The Monkey seem to me to be performed by numbers, almost bland. Even the one "new" track, I Go Swimming (in fact an old live favourite since at least 1980), is, well, flat. Even the perennial Solsbury Hill sounds as if it is merely being played, rather than enjoyed.

Heresy? In the eyes of some maybe, but I don't really think so. Because the one thing that Gabriel has always been is a visual as well as an oral artist. What I mean by this is that Gabriel has to be experienced as a whole, seen and heard, rather than just the one. The trouble here is you cannot see the audience interaction, the antics on stage, and the sheer being of Gabriel and a troupe of exceptional musicians, and the experience is lacking because of it. The production is also very much of its time, and sounds rather dated now.

As much as I love Gabriel, and enjoy listening to this album again this evening writing this review, I would recommend that readers of this interested in exploring Gabriel live turn instead to the wondrous DVD's that he has produced, which bring the man and his accomplices out in all their glory, stage show and all.

For this, I would state that it is one of those albums that die hard fans absolutely must own, but would hold little interest beyond that. For this reason, it is a two star rating from me.

lazland | 2/5 |

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