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Event Review: Peter Gabriel
First Union Center - Philadelphia - November 18, 2002
By The Singing Rebel
(more articles from this author)
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Okay, what’s the deal?

For the first time in almost a decade, Peter Gabriel rolls into Philadelphia. He always plays Philadelphia. The Tower, The Mann, The Spectrum. Always a great turnout. Now he’s at the First Union Center. Looking around the arena, what detail stood out the most?

Empty seats. Lots of them. Even though the week before the show, you could buy first level seats for $10 through Ticketmaster (no, I’m not kidding), the First Union Center was less than half full.

The show was, in a word, incredible. Gabriel and his band worked their way through the setlist with gusto, starting with a solo keyboard version of “Here Comes the Flood” (from PG 1) and ending with a keyboard and stick version of “Father, Son” (from Ova), two and one half hours later. Combining old songs (“Solsbury Hil,” “Here Comes the Flood”); new songs (“Growing Up,” “Animal Nation,” “Darkness,” “the Barry Williams Show”), and the crowd-pleasers (“Sledgehammer,” “In Your Eyes”), the show also made effective use of an in-the-round stage setup that constantly morphed into something new (imagine a NASA project designed by the team of Stanley Kubrick and Rube Goldberg).

Political overtones were muted, as compared to past tours. However, $1 from every ticket was donated to, a non-profit organization he co-founded that provides video technology to help combat human rights abuses around the globe.

Opening for Gabriel were the Blind Boys of Alabama, with a 40 minute set. Whereas their versions of “People Get Ready” and “If I Had a Hammer” were interesting and heartfelt, what really sold me on them was their morphing of “Amazing Grace” with “The House of the Rising Sun.” Following the Blind Boys were a pair of Tanzanian performers who sang, played and danced for a 30 minute set. Both opening acts also returned to the stage Gabriel’s set: The Blind Boys of Alabama during “Sky Blue” and the Tanzanian duo during “In Your Eyes.”

If you missed the show, I offer my condolences. If you have the opportunity to catch a show on this tour, then by all means do so.

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