One evening when I was in high school, I remember sitting in our living room after dinner. My dad had some music on in the background and all of a sudden I was like, what IS this? I am sure I had heard “Sledgehammer” or “Big Time” previously, but my earliest actual memory of Peter Gabriel was the emotional cry in “Blood of Eden” shooting through me as I sat on the floor in front of our couch. For whatever reason at the moment of time, it just got me. (I had a happy childhood, I swear!) From there, I worked my way backward and then forward through his catalogue, and he’s been one of my all time favorites ever since, despite the fact that none of my friends listened to him, and in fact one of my best friends had a complete aversion to him. I’ve always liked how his music sounds, and I’ve always liked what it says, how it paints pictures in my mind, how it makes me feel.
So, when Peter Gabriel announced last month he was going to play WOMAD as a benefit concert for Witness, an organization he co-founded to promote the use of technology to document human rights abuses, it didn’t take long to find a way through work schedules to get to Saturday WOMAD this year.
I thought I knew what the set list was likely to look like, as I’d seen what he recently played in South America. So, I was intrigued as we watched the crew set up for a string section center stage (all the while Crunchy husband excitedly whispering, “do you think he’ll do ‘Growing Up’, do you, do you?” I just shook my head, “dude, no. You missed your chance on that one.”)
Lucky us, first song out, as a surprise to me, we got a peek into the Scratch My Back covers project with his version of “The Boy in the Bubble”. (I can’t wait to hear what Paul Simon has covered of Peter Gabriel’s for the album.) I still prefer the faster-paced original, but this slow version was not bad. He continued with the string section for a couple more songs before getting into the more familiar formation with the ever-cool Tony Levin & Co. to knock out some “Steam” and “Games Without Frontiers,” etc.
Like I felt at David Byrne a few months ago, it’s interesting listening to the music of your life live, and feeling so much connection to so many different parts and times and what they mean – what they meant then and what they mean now. The imagery in “San Jacinto” always makes me think of traveling across the western part of the United States and Canada with my family on summer vacations, dusty hot air beating through the window, my sweaty legs sticking uncomfortably to the seat in our van. “Solsbury Hill” always takes me home – that jolt of excitement and relief when the airplane finally reconnects with earth and you know you are back where you belong.
The only fault of the show was that it felt way, way, way too short. (No “Sledgehammer” or “In Your Eyes”.) But then, I suppose the guy would have to play his full catalogue before I might begin to be ready to go home.