Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography


Peter Gabriel

Crossover Prog

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Peter Gabriel Plays Live album cover
4.00 | 274 ratings | 26 reviews | 42% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

Write a review

from partners
Live, released in 1983

Songs / Tracks Listing

Disc 1 (43:17)
1. The Rhythm of the Heat (6:26)
2. I Have the Touch (4:43)
3. Not One of Us (5:51)
4. Family Snapshot (4:48)
5. D.I.Y. (4:06)
6. The Family and the Fishing Net (7:34)
7. Intruder (4:44)
8. I Go Swimming (5:05)

Disc 2 (46:28)
1. San Jacinto (8:27)
2. Solsbury Hill (4:42)
3. No Self Control (5:03)
4. I Don't Remember (4:19)
5. Shock the Monkey (7:10)
6. Humdrum (4:24)
7. On the Air (5:22)
8. Biko (7:01)

Total Time 89:45

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter Gabriel / lead vocals, synthesizer, piano
- Jerry Marotta / drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Tony Levin / stick, bass, backing vocals
- David Rhodes / guitar, backing vocals
- Larry Fast / synthesizer, piano

Releases information

Geffen GHS-4012

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy PETER GABRIEL Plays Live Music

PETER GABRIEL Plays Live ratings distribution

(274 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(42%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(46%)
Good, but non-essential (10%)
Collectors/fans only (1%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

PETER GABRIEL Plays Live reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by loserboy
5 stars Without a question one of my alltime favorite progressive rock live recordings. This is Peter GABRIEL at his best surrounded by the most incredible musicians (Tony Levin, Jerry Marotta, David Rhodes and Larry Fast). "Plays Live" was carefully produced and mixed with no obvious overdubs, leaving a very professional but raw 2 LP/CD set behind. "Plays Live" was recorded from 4 different live shows while on tour in the US in 1982. This live album has a great live feel to it and offers superb sound reproduction. This is a monster recording and I guarantee that after hearing "Humdrum" played live you will salivate like you never have before. A truely magical moment captured live.
Review by Guillermo
4 stars Even if Peter Gabriel is not one of my favourite musicians (solo or as member of Genesis), this album is very good. The recording and the mixing are not very good (the audience sounds distant and some of the songs too), but at least in the sleeve notes Peter and the producer explain that this albums has studio overdubs ("cheating", as they call it!). So, it is an honest "live album with some studio ovedubs". The best songs from this album are: "Shock the Monkey", "Humdrum" (a very good version), "On the Air" and "Biko" (the side four of the L.P.). Tony Levin shines playing the bass guitar and the stick. And in some of the songs Jerry Marotta plays cymbals in contrast to the original studio versions which didn`t have cymbals.
Review by Muzikman
3 stars This is a nice overview of Peter GABRIEL's first four albums. It's not a must have piece for your collection, unless you happen to be, as they say in England ... gob smacked, obsessed, and ravenously seek out everything by the artist. "Plays Live: Highlights" is exactly what it says it is. GABRIEL went back into the studio in Bath England to tweak the recordings; nevertheless the live atmosphere is pretty much kept intact.

I particularly enjoyed "I Don't Remember" and "Biko," which I think is his most prolific and emotionally charged song ever. Other than those two songs, a lot of what I heard was a lack of aggressiveness by Gabriel and his band. While listening to "Shock The Monkey" I was fully expecting a rousing rendition, but unfortunately everyone sounds like they are restrained. "Solsbury Hill" was good, but even that could have had more energy and oomph behind it.

Even though I felt that the sonics could have been cranked up a few notches and the energy level a few more pegs higher on the ladder when this was originally recorded, I did enjoy this. This is Peter Gabriel after all, and you always expect so much. His band was really awesome; this recording just doesn't serve his music the integrity it deserves.

Review by erik neuteboom
4 stars A few years ago I decided to write a story about Peter Gabriel for a Dutch progrock magazine as a kind of tribute to my hero and I wanted to know more about his background. So I started to read many articles and books about Peter and gradually I discovered that he would have been a treat for the famous psycho-analist Dr. Sigmund Freud because his childhood is loaded with emotional events: a father who was always busy with his work, a mother who preferred the company of his sister, an obsession with nature and playing with girls on the farm of his grandfather, a hugh frustration during the stay on the Charterhouse School, the betrayal of his pregnant wife Jill with one of his best friends and the confronting psycho-therapeutical sessions, this all led to a perfect sublimation into music. If you listen to this live 2-CD you will discover that Peter Gabriel has succeeded to create an atmosphere that is close to the magic of the early-Genesis but more the music and emotions are more direct. I've never witnessed Peter Gabriel in Genesis but I've seen him many times solo and I have a hugh respect for his ability to make contact with his audience (something he missed with his parents) and to enjoy them with great lyrics, great stage antics and great music, this man is so creative, warm, honest and far ahead of his time, incredible! On this live 2-CD you will find everything between rock and world music, not really progrock but Peter Gabriel his music is so compelling and emotional, every time I listen to Biko I can't stop my anger and sadness about the injustice in South-Africa, I think he has contributed a lot to the attention for the Thirld World. CREDIT TO PETER GABRIEL FOR THE WONDERFUL MUSIC ON THIS 2-CD AND HIS EFFORTS TO CREATE A MORE TOLERANT WORLD!!!
Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars When this album was released in 1983, I was still in Bandung for my engineering study. My friend who just received the album in LP version showed me the pictures inside the LP. I was really impressed with all accompanying pictures inside the LP and my attention went to a pair of shoes that one of the band members used - it's David Rhodes? Not sure. But, that pair of shoes stimulated me to get and .. finally I got it! I was proud that it seemed I dressed like the member of the band. Oh, what a memory! Anything about rock music always create good stimuli for me to emulate except drugs man!

This album was compiled from four concerts in the mid-wesr of the United States and Canada on autumn 1982 tour. The album opener "The Rhythm Of The Heat" (6:26) is an excellent song from Gabriel's fourth album "Security" that has become one of my favorite. With a longer introduction part and big applaud from the crowd, this song performed live has created great live vibes for the live CD listeners. Wow! So lively! I used to play this CD in, especially this opening track, in LOUD volume. I enjoy especially when Jerry Marotta enters his drums and percussive followed with Gabriel's yell "Oooooo ." oh man . what a wonderful voice entrance. It follows with "Looking out the windows ." voice of Gabriel that set the live atmosphere. [Hey, am now listening this track with loud volume so what I'm writing truly represents what I feel now. It's so powerful man!]. It then continues with Gabriel's voice saying "I Have The Touch" (4:43) in an excellent way.

Yeah man, it's the live vibe that has made this album is something that you should have the CD. Songs like "Not One Of Us", "Family Snapshot", "D.I.Y.", "Intruder", "I Go Swimming" are better performed here than the original studio versions. Oh man .. I can not bear it any more when this live set reaches "The Family And The Fishing Net". It's one of my best favorite track from Gabriel's fourth album "Security". The melody, the composition and the lyrics are all wonderful! The singing style of Gabriel during this track is top notch!

"San Jacinto" is another track that I love from Peter Gabriel; the composition and singing style are both wonderful. I truly enjoy the opening part with great keyboard sound that flows in ambient. It's a powerful song. "San Jacinto - I hold the line" - I cannot let myself not singing with Gabriel while playing the CD. "Solsbury Hill" continues the show nicely. "No Self Control" is another great track that I like "I don't know how to stop!". In "I Don't Remember" (with solid bass lines) Peter Gabriel sings beautifully during opening (improvised) and the rest of the track. "On The Air" and "Humdrum" are another excellent track performed flawlessly.

Overall, it's an excellent addition to any prog music collection. It's a must for those who love live record or Peter Gabriel's music. Production quality is also excellent. My CD is a double CD set with a double jewel case. It's one of my precious collection. Keep on proggin' ..!

Progressively yours, GW

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars 3,5 stars really!!!

Recorded after the fourth album and logically concentrating a good deal of attention towards that album (Which suits me since it is my fave) , this double live album is really an excellent introduction to Peter Gabriel's early solo career. It gives you an excellent overview of his four studio album forgetting none and choosing not only the better (IMHO) tracks (San Jacinto , Rythm Of The Heat ) as well as its more commercial side (Solsburry , Shock The Monkey , I Don't Remember) and actually adding up a bit to some tracks. Too bad that my favorite two tracks Moribund and Exposure (they are more delicate , ambient and "proggy" but also maybe more difficult to produce on stage) are absent .

His finale is poignant as he sings out his tribute to Stephen Biko! A fitting intro to The Gabe's world.

Review by horza
4 stars An excellent album ideal for those who have yet to experience Gabriel in the flesh.One criticism might be that at two discs it is over long.Disc two is definitely the stronger,having Solsbury Hill and Biko.It also features San Jacinto which is absolutely fantastic,the live version breathing life into this epic mourning Native Americans in modern commercial USA.The standard of musicianship throughout is excellent,as one would expect from a perfectionist like Gabriel.Worth a visit for San Jacinto alone,play it loud though.
Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Unfortunately this will only review the latest, "Highlights" version of this great live album, even though I know the orginal, double-LP version quite well. As a matter of fact, I saw PG live at the Hammersmith Odeon on the tour that was then recorded for this album: it was a really impressive, emotionally moving performance, as one could have expected from a musician of such stellar quality. Strange as it may sound, I have a definite preference for Gabriel's solo output in comparison with his work with Genesis - never my favourite band, though of course I recognise their essential contribution to prog.

"Plays Live" showcases some of the best work contained in Peter Gabriel's first four solo efforts, though the real highlights are taken from his third and fourth albums, known respectively as "Melt" and "Security". The album strikes the right balance between lighter-hearted songs with strong, even danceable rythm (courtesy of Messrs Jerry Marotta and Tony Levin, certainly two masters of their craft), such as dynamic album opener "I Have the Touch", "DYI" and "I Go Swimming", and haunting, intense mood pieces - which, to my mind, represent by far the best side of Peter's solo work, especially from a vocal point of view.

Besides album and concert closer "Biko", a mournful, deeply heartfelt tribute to South African political activist, absolute standouts are an excellent version of the eerie, atmospheric "The Family and the Fishing Net"; the deeply disturbing "No Self-Control" (remarkably different from the studio version, without Kate Bush's backing vocals and with a more pronounced use of percussion); and my favourite Gabriel track of all time, the hauntingly powerful "San Jacinto", featuring a cracking vocal performance by Peter, possibly his best ever. The ending of the song is nothing short of mesmerising, with Peter's passionate voice repeating "hold the line" over the backing provided by Larry Fast's synthetisers. However, on this 'condensed' version of the album I surely miss another of my favourite tracks, weird masterpiece "Intruder".

As in the case of most Gabriel albums, the cover art is also worthy of note, showing Peter's painted face in all its expressiveness. "Plays Live" is definitely recommended to all lovers of emotional, quality music, regardless of its 'prog' quotient. PG may have come a long way since his Genesis days, but his contribution to modern rock is oustanding, and he is still a force to be reckoned with.

Review by 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.

Review by bhikkhu
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I saw this tour when I was 16, and it still stands out as one of the greatest concert experiences of my life. The opening band was horrible, but Peter more than made up for it. The entrance from the back of the arena, with Gabriel carrying a marching bass drum was completely unexpected. Then he put an exclamation point on it by disappearing, and reappearing on top of a scaffolding singing the first note (or wail) of "The Rhythm of the Heat." The free-fall into the audience during "Lay Your Hands on Me." Nothing will ever match chanting along with "Biko," with arms raised long after the band had left the stage. I have seen him since, and many other great shows, but this was the best.

I was ecstatic when I found out an album from this tour was being released. The recording did not let me down. It covered all of the greatest moments. It even featured the surprise "I Go Swimming." No one had heard that before the concert. It could also be the most fun thing PG has ever recorded (along with "Excuse Me"). Tony Levin especially Shines on this one. All of the tracks contain the energy, and magic that I had experienced. Even "Humdrum," which is one of his most moving performances, maintains that quality. The end, of course, is "Biko." Remarkably, it harnesses all the power of actually being there. I won't go into the rest, as they are well known and reported. Although, I will say that there is not one weak moment. Every bit of it is outstanding.

I am generally not a fan of live albums. Most of the time they lack the essence of the show. Other times, the quality of the recording is poor. This one has it all. The sound is terrific (actually, it was state of the art in 1983), and the sense of awe is there. This isn't just a great live version of gabriel, or rock (prog or otherwise), this is a great live album. It is also a great place for a Peter Gabriel initiate to start. Everyone should have it.

H.T. Riekels

Review by Chicapah
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.

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Peter Gabriel is an artist that releases outstanding studio albums hard to classify, but when the guy is on stage he suffers a transformation like Dr Jeckill and Mr. Hyde but in a positive way) and he is able to give 110% every second, even beyond any range limitation he was born with, the guy is simply out of this world.

Normally solo artists choose efficient but unknown session musicians in order to be the only star over the stage, but this is not the case of Peter, he already was working with Tony Levin who was always a star and David Rhodes, a great guitar player who made his career as a permanent member of Peter's staff, plus Jerry Marotta on drums and Larry Fast in keyboards being that Peter was never a virtuoso and required somebody to support him.

During the review I won't focus in the songs because all are well known, but mainly in the performances, some of which are simply outstanding.

Disk one starts with the powerful "The Rhythm of Heat" a strong opener because of the percussion intro that places the audience in the right mood, each time I play this track I'm able to feel the expectation of the people who are waiting for Peter to start singing and he begins with his famous semi yodel, he keeps nothing for later he gives it all. The mysterious atmosphere is perfect for the moment,. The first track of the concert in which all the contained emotion is set free by the former Genesis frontman and his crew who make great vocal work, the final section with strong percussion and bass is breathtaking a perfect opener.

"I Have the Touch" is the adequate song for Peter to sing, flows incredibly from start to end, again all the band is perfect, not the best track with some poppy moments but the performance is brilliant.

"Family Snapshot" is a soft track that goes in crescendo from start to end, nothing spectacular but a good chance for him to show his versatility and to prove he can still manage to transmit his deepest feelings to the audience.

"DIY" is a very strong track, some kind of light Prog but again perfect for him to give the audience what they want, despite the mainstream background the song presents radical changes reminiscent of early Genesis (The vocal work reminds me of "Battle for the Epping Forest" even when musically is different) but with his own touch, another highlight.

In the search for the best moments we have to jump to a more solid Disk two, most precisely with "San Jacinto", the perfect song for Peter's voice, he can control the level of vocals required, without effort goes slowly from low tow to high ranges and when he can't reach some point he adds dramatics with his semi yodel that people love so much.

Of course no peter Gabriel live album will be complete without "Solsbury Hills" a very personal track which is a favorite of the audience and him, in this case it seems a bit slower than normally, not the best performance ever but people wouldn't accept a concert without this classic. The highlight of the song is the perfect drumming by Jerry Marotta.

Some people will call me blasphemous, but I like "Shock the Monkey", not Prog, overplayed in the radio and MTV but an old favorite of post Genesis fans who took notice of him with this track, I can't understand why in his later concerts he replaced this track with the much weaker and conventional "Sledgehammer", at least "Shock the Monkey" is unusual even for him and has strong moments.

"On the Air" is a good chance for the audience to participate directly singing along with Gabriel, one of the few moments in which you can really listen the fans, seems that in the desire to make a clear recording they forgot that what makes a Peter Gabriel concert unique is the mutual feedback between him and the fans..

The album ends with the best of all tracks the ultra emotional "Biko", from the start Peter's voice surrounded by the low bass drums prepare the audience for an emotional moment, and Gabriel gives his best performance, unusually clear and dramatic as always, this time his yodel is almost a scream of pain surrounded by the bagpipes that cry with him.There's something in this song that makes me listen it over and over, maybe not a masterpiece but he achieved his goal, to transmit his anger and the suffering of South African people under a criminal regimen. Another track that is not played too much lately.

Probably the later concerts are more spectacular, but this albums presents one of the purest performances by Gabriel and crew, less effects but pure voice and emotion, even if you have "Secret World Live" or "Growing UP Tour", try this album it's really good,

The rating.4 stars, not perfect, but without doubt an excellent addition to any prog music collection.

Review by progaardvark
COLLABORATOR Crossover/Symphonic/RPI Teams
4 stars Plays Live was Peter Gabriel's first live recording, originally issued as a double LP containing 16 songs performed during his 1982-83 tour. It was later issued as a double CD and then in 2002, a single-CD version was released that contained only 12 of the 16 songs.

The production on Plays Live is excellent and I believe that's primarily due to some later adjustments being made to the live recordings in the recording studio. At least that's what I remember hearing back in the day. Even so, the essence and energy of each song was left intact. That's a good thing because the energy on this album is invigorating and addictive. The older songs sound like they received a much needed breath of fresh air.

The bulk of this live set is from Gabriel's last two studio albums, with a few holdouts from his first two (D.I.Y., Solsbury Hill, On the Air). Also included is a new song not previously released called I Go Swimming. The performances are exceptional and I'll go out on a limb and say that many of them sound better than their studio counterparts.

The music is firmly in the art/pop rock vein that Gabriel had put together throughout his solo career. So keep that in mind. He performs nothing from his Genesis period. Still, it's an excellent live recording. A must-have for Gabriel fans and probably a nice introduction for someone unfamiliar with Gabriel's solo work. Four stars.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars This could be THE live album, but unfortunately, and despite all its obvious qualities, it is not. I was expecting a very powerful, raw version of his studio offerings. And while the playing here is spotless, the band and Gabriel sound a bit restrained. This is specially true with the songs he sings from his third (and best) album. The studio recordings of those tunes are more energetic than the ones you hear here. Still, I canīt give this record anything less than four stars, as a good sum up of his career up to that point. And besides, some few tunes are actually better than their studio offerings (few, but this is the case of D.I.Y. and Humdrum).

Overall the performances are good and they canīt take away the brilliance of tunes like Family Snapshot, San Jacinto, Solsbury Hill and so many others. And with a band like that, how could he be wrong? Unfortunately my CD was given to me by my sister as a gift and it is the one CD only version of the original double LP. It was called Plays Live: highlights.The result is an atrocity, with many songs missing (including the great opener The Rhythm Of The Heat! this is really unforgivable!). The guy who was responsible for choosing those highlights should be hanged for such butchery. So pay attention to get the complete CD. It is well worth the extra price. Peter Gabriel is one of the most extraordinaire and influential individuals ever to appear in the prog music scene. And this album is a good live display of his talents when he was at the peak of his solo career. Recommended to any prog lover.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Another album that probably doesn't need much of an introduction here. It's been with me from the time when it was released and has maintained a continuous presence in the playlist ever since.

It's not that I have a top 10 list of everything but if you'd ask me who my favourite singer is, I'd probably answer Peter Gabriel, even though I don't like all his solo albums. But his instantly recognizable husky voice is both warm and expressive, always original, a guarantee for great and memorable melodies.

This live album has pretty much all of his best tunes from the first 4 albums. It has energizing performances from the entire band and especially Gabriel himself shines throughout. The sound is a bit smoother then the often rough and 'art rocky' studio originals. I can't say it's better or less. It's just a different angle and it makes this album an essential addition to Gabriel's impressive solo discography.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars Just what the title says

Released one year after Gabriel's fourth studio solo album, his first live solo album could probably not have come at a better time - particularly as his next studio album was still three years away at this point. The 1986 album So would also constitute a change of musical direction for Gabriel, so this double live album thus makes up a fitting conclusion of the first part of his solo career. He does, however, sadly forgo the opportunity to include anything from his Genesis days in the set list. Given the inclusions of some less-than-great songs here, there would have been ample room for one or two Genesis classics. But you can't have everything can you?

While Gabriel's studio albums were often uneven and inconsistent, a live album was the perfect opportunity to pick out some of the strongest tracks from each studio album and present them together thus creating a kind of "best of" album in a live setting. Is this what he did here? Well, to a degree. In my opinion, there are some songs that I would have liked in place of some others (but that is often the case with live albums, isn't it?). Particularly Here Comes The Flood from the solo debut is a glaring omission. Indeed, only two tracks here are taken from that first album. But we do get the catchy Solsbury Hill from that same album which is great.

The weak Peter Gabriel 2 is equally represented with two songs, while Peter Gabriel 3 and 4 are represented with as many as six and five tracks respectively. The focus is thus on more recent (at the time) material. A highlight for me is the Genesis-like Family Snapshot from the third album. I Go Swimming is a non-album track that offers something new for those who already have all the studio albums.

It is unclear to me to what degree the running order here accurately represents the actual set list of the tour. It is evident that the songs here were recorded at different locations and it would surely have been better to have single show. The production is not perfect and it often very hard to hear what Gabriel is telling the audience between songs. Still, this is a nice live album that will make a good addition both to committed fans and to beginners.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Truly a great effort to capture the sound and spirit of one of the greatest concert experiences I ever had the privilege of attending this still does not do the concert justice. Like a photograph of a sunset or a summer storm, the snapshots can never capture the full impact, the full scale, the full panorama of the experience. Plus, there are a few song differences and cuts from the concerts I saw (I attended three different concerts in three different cities on this tour). Another element that seems to detract from efforts to record/represent the PG live experience that I find lacking is the fact that he always has such interesting warm-up bands (who often end up on stage with his band during the encores). Anyway, the later videographed versions of the PG concerts are done so well that I question why anyone would even buy an album or CD. A great tour with a great song selection and great cast of support band members.
Review by lazland
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.

Review by Warthur
3 stars If you are particularly keen to hear a live Peter Gabriel set from the tour for his fourth solo album, this isn't a bad one. It's heavy on material from his third and fourth self-titled albums, and doesn't have any Genesis tracks, which I suppose just goes to show how much of a creative triumph his solo career had become by that point. That said, I personally don't think the live setting really adds much to this material - particularly since Gabriel's third and fourth solo albums relied so much on truly cutting-edge studio techniques and are such complete sonic worlds in and of themselves. Your mileage may vary, so it's worth a listen, but only if you're out of other Gabriel material of this vintage to sample.
Review by Mirakaze
COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
2 stars I guess you just had to be there... On paper, this has every element needed to make a great live album, ignoring the deceptive album cover (don't expect any moonlit knights here) and the fact that the sound quality isn't the greatest since that usually isn't a dealbreaker for me: the track listing is mostly good, Gabriel is having a splendid night and his accompanying musicians are doing a good job backing him up. It probably was a great spectacle to see, but on record, divorced from the visuals and the concert atmosphere, it sounds like the musicians are trying their hardest to make this music come to life and failing. I realize that the bar is set high, but these versions of songs like "Family Snapshot" and "I Don't Remember" don't come remotely close to recapturing the energy, timbral richness and emotional prowess of their studio counterparts. Not that I really blame the musicians: I can think of some minor things that could be improved (why is "No Self-Control" slowed down to such a crawling pace, and was it really necessary to quiet down the coda of "Shock The Monkey" just for some obligatory audience participation? Or rather, was it necessary to include such a version here?) but the fact of the matter is that this music was designed to be built up out of many layers in a recording studio and not be recreated live with little freedom for reinterpretation by a five-man line-up. The result sounds disappointingly flat when compared to what it was supposed to sound like. "Intruder" is the only song on the album that seems to have the opposite problem, with Peter's overblown vocal performance of what was supposed to be quiet, haunting song feeling very out of place. To play this song live at all is doing it a disservice.

I suppose it probably goes without saying, but I want to state explicitly that this low rating should NOT be seen as reflective of the musical quality of the songs included here, but rather of the material value of this release. It's perfectly listenable, but I see no reason at all to seek it out instead of just listening to the studio recordings again.

Latest members reviews

5 stars If you want to know who is Peter Gabriel, you must listen this album (the original double one). It's one of the best live recordings ever. Most of the tracks sounds far better than in the original studio recordings, and takes Peter work to its highest level. The drum work by Jerry Marotta is j ... (read more)

Report this review (#283027) | Posted by genbanks | Saturday, May 22, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I wasn't such a big fan of Peter Gabriel solo stuff. Popular songs like "Sledgehammer" and "No Self Control" were good but not of my big interest. Everything changed when I downloaded this amazing live album. I just bought It today. Many of the useless sound effects are left behind and on songs ... (read more)

Report this review (#87575) | Posted by Dr4Wazo | Friday, August 18, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I was 15 y/o the first time that I heard this album. I was hypnotized by the cover art and the music from the two vynils because I didn't know much about this great musician except some albums with Genesis and a few songs from the fourth previous studio albums. Well, my first conclusion aft ... (read more)

Report this review (#79143) | Posted by progadicto | Tuesday, May 23, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Some live albums contain songs which become the definitive version of a song. Some live album offer different rendering of songs. This album tends to be of the latter. Not that this is a bad thing, quite the contrary. The versions of the songs found on this album are at times very diffe ... (read more)

Report this review (#24022) | Posted by pstankovich | Wednesday, July 7, 2004 | Review Permanlink

5 stars though it has been heavily reworked in the studio (as PG said) this is one of my all time favorite "live" albums... Peter is a magical animal on stage, always been and the story is not over yet... music from heaven ! ... (read more)

Report this review (#24021) | Posted by | Friday, March 19, 2004 | Review Permanlink

3 stars a good live collection of great songs most of them from the third("melt")and ("security") albums. i'm not crazy about the sound of this CD ,but it contains realy good renditions of "family snapshot" and "The Rhythm Of The Heat ","i have the touch" and the magnificant "San Jacinto " it's nice to se ... (read more)

Report this review (#24018) | Posted by | Tuesday, December 2, 2003 | Review Permanlink

Post a review of PETER GABRIEL "Plays Live"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.