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Peter Gabriel - Plays Live CD (album) cover


Peter Gabriel


Crossover Prog

4.05 | 229 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Peter Gabriel's definitive live affair came out in the wake of his release of his fourth studio album (Peter Gabriel 4, Security, Mask, whatever you want to call it). And saying that, you can expect a majority of that album to be played here (5 of the 8 songs on that album are played here). That said, this is arguably one of the best live albums I have in my collection, and although it doesn't really merit that masterpiece quality, it certainly is a crowning achievement of a live album and is essential for any fan of Peter Gabriel's solo career. The album is spread out over two discs and the overall setlist focuses mainly on Gabriel's third and fourth studio albums, but gems from his first and second album make appearances as well. One thing is for certain, though, Peter Gabriel can really make a live show great, and usually he makes his songs sound a lot better live when put up against their studio counterparts, and this live album is no different.

The first disc focuses on the third and fourth studio album mostly, although the gem DIY from the second album and the non-album song I Go Swimming are present. The version of Rhythm of the Heat is a lot more atmospheric and eerie as Gabriel uses the venue's acoustics to his advantage offering a dynamic vocal performance to open the show. The Peter Gabriel 3 songs on this album also have varying differences from their studio versions, with more pronounced uses of percussion and guitar (especially is the case with Not One of Us, but Family Snapshot is also incredible on this album). DIY also benefits from a great extended outro (with the 5/4 chorus repeated over and over again). The Family and the Fishing Net also is benefited from a spectacular and dynamic rhythmic performance from Marotta and Levin and Gabriel's vocals exceed that of the studio version and then some. Intruder may as well be my favorite Peter Gabriel song released thus far and the version here is a spectacular tour de force of Gabriel's twisted psyche. The more dynamic drum performance also helps it be a bit different from Phil Collins' simple studio version. Ending the first disc is the rarity I Go Swimming, which is a fun rollicking rock number that didn't find its way onto any of his first four studio albums (and for good reason, as it wouldn't have fit within the context of the album that well). Still, though, it's a fun piece that's harmless at its core.

The second disc has a more balanced set with songs from each of his albums up to that point. Opening with an extended San Jacinto (courtesy of the fantastic keyboard prowess of Larry Fast), the second disc has a more concise and intimate feel than the first disc (which in my opinion, though, benefited from a slightly better set). Solsbury Hill is as always part of the show, but I'm not too fond of the guitar work here for some reason. It's still as powerful as ever vocally and rhythmically, though, so I can look past the guitar on the song. Of the three songs from Melt on this disc, the first two come in the form of No Self-Control (which is drastically different from the studio counterpart, with Kate Bush's backing vocal absent) and I Don't Remember (which is just as, if not more, powerful than the studio version with Gabriel's supremely crackling and biting vocals. The final Security (or Peter Gabriel 4) song here is the hit from the album Shock the Monkey, which gets a bit of an extension in the outro chorus, other than that though it is pretty faithful to the studio version. As a treat, Humdrum (from Peter Gabriel 1) and On the Air (from Peter Gabriel 2) follow, the first being a wonderfully mellow piece that has a great vocal performance and the second having the magnificent chorus and outro. Biko ends the album in classic fashion with Gabriel sending out essentially a eulogy to political activist Stephen Biko. A fitting ending and really brings the show full circle and to a close.

In the end, Plays Live is the definitive Peter Gabriel live recording, shame there isn't any video footage from this tour, though. If you're a fan of Peter Gabriel, this album is essential as it shows the man at the peak of his solo career. He had no more Genesis roots in him, but he certainly was far from being done spreading his message across the airwaves. Highly recommended. 4.5/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 4/5 |


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