I have always been a big Genesis fan and Gabriel-era Genesis in particular. I was too young to see Genesis in concert with Gabriel as the front man so seeing him live has always been on my bucket list.
To be fair I had seen him play in 2007 but this was at a festival and he was, well, a bit rusty. You also don’t get the full experience at a festival and looking at videos his live experiences looked amazing.
When the tickets went on sale I was there at my keyboard waiting to secure one. I had decided that the closest place to go would be the O2 Arena in London – the far side of London to me. This turned out to be a mistake.
London is a beautiful city and even more so late afternoon and at night but it is a nightmare to navigate. For a variety of reasons, I had decided to drive. The most direct route was right across the middle, which would take two hours, or round the M25 which would take slightly longer but was twice the distance. I elected to take the route across the city.
I have to admit that if you were a tourist this is the route to take. You enter across the Hammersmith bridge and then pass Harrods and the expensive shops of Knightsbridge before going into Trafalgar Square, past Buckingham Palace and along The Mall. I have to say that The Mall looked fantastic with huge Union flags draped from every lamppost. I suspect that they were leftover from the coronation but even the non-royalist in me was moved. Then it was past the end of Downing Street, right through Parliament Square and the Palace of Westminster before passing opposite the London Eye and the River Thames on Embankment.
All in all an amazing journey but not when you have a destination you need to reach in a timely manner. It was stop-start for much of the way and when there wasn’t traffic there was a speed limit of only 20 mph with frequent speed cameras. It was a frustrating journey and I could see the time tick away on the dashboard clock.
Hindsight’s a wonderful thing and actually, it would have been quicker and easier to go to Birmingham.
I’ve been to the O2 twice before – the first time was when it was the Millennium Dome and the last to see Monty Python and then I was in a corporate box. This was a very different experience.
Tickets to the gig were unsurprisingly pricey and I was in pretty much the cheapest seat you could get. I paid just shy of £100 including the egregious Ticketmaster fees which got me a side view just a few rows from the back. I’m not saying that it was a long way up and steep to get there but it required ropes, crampons and a Sherpa to get to my seat! Given the age of the audience (50+ predominantly male) and the physical exertion required to reach your seat, I did wonder how many of the wheezing people passing me might need stretchering down at the end.
Gabriel came on bang at eight p.m. and during the first couple of songs, I wondered if I’d made a horrible mistake. The show starts with Gabriel and the band sitting in a semicircle around a none too convincing campfire. This was lovely but there weren’t any giant screens and I was so far away that it literally could have been anyone down there. Fortunately, they quickly dispensed with the kitsch campfire and some screens finally burst into life.
The last studio album from Peter Gabriel, Up, was in 2002, some 21 years ago and it’s 12 years since New Blood, the orchestral reworkings of his previous music – so a long time. He has a new record in the works called i/o which is due to be released at some point this year but, crucially, had not been released (other than some tracks through a subscription platform) at the time of the tour.
He played 11 tracks from the album last night which meant that 50% of the concert was music people had either never heard or were pretty unfamiliar with. I now know what those that went to see Genesis on The Lamb tour must have felt like.
Why am I raising this? Well, because the guy across the aisle from me spent most of the evening on WhatsApp while the two blokes next to me spent it chatting loudly so they could be heard over the music. I am sure that this was due to a lost connection between the audience and Gabriel caused by a lack of familiarity with the new music and the great distance to the stage. Gabriel also played only four songs from the first four albums with the remaining seven coming from So, Us & Up which I found very strange.
One song Gabriel certainly didn’t play was Intruder despite the bloke next to me shouting for it and then saying “This is Intruder!” to his mate when they played Darkness… Idiot!
Reading this back you might assume that I didn’t enjoy the evening. I did but it was only good and not great and I certainly wouldn’t rush back to the O2 for a gig.