(Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, MI – Dec. 3rd ’02)
To say that this was quite easily one of the most entertaining and completely enthralling shows that I have personally witnessed in the past ten years would not be an overstatement of any wrong magnitude! I have to admit that going into it I had my unfounded, yet uneasy fears that it could easily bore my socks off and that come the third hour I would be begging for the final curtain to fall! Luckily, I couldn’t have been any further from the delightful truth !
Taking the stage casual as you like, Gabriel - dressed head to toe in black – is greeted by the two-thirds full arena crowd with a standing ovation. Gently nodding his thanks to the high money-paying gathering, he tells them, “This is where we left off from the last tour” and starts the night off with ‘Here Comes The Flood.’ To a stage bathed in red lights, ‘Red Rain’ is quickly brought to the fore to the delight of the older demographic.
As ‘Sky Blue’ is played and sung, the circular stage of varying percussionists and singers is always moving, always alive, always colorful even if Gabriel’s appearance isn’t. But, it’s during this same song that up from the center of the stage rise the four members of ‘The Blind Boys From Alabama.’ Their collective harmonies may fruitlessly extend the song, but yet keep you spellbound all the same. But if you think the theatrics ended there, you are so wrong as they just got bigger and better. As he introduces the song ‘Downside-Up’ as a song about what it feels like to be laying there on the grass (and NOT the hilltop variety !), staring up at the sky, one of his female soloists (Melanie) takes center stage and belts the tune out of the park. Then, halfway through the song, both he and she buckle up and get strapped onto a lowered down circular platform centerstage which then proceeds to turn them both upside down thus allowing them to walk around it …. upside down ! It was quite amazing the way they both kept the same distance from each other and never faltered an upside down step once.
This constantly changing middle arrangement was then turned into a cylindrical canvas, the whole apparatus now floor level to enable Gabriel to jump on board. Grabbing a full-size TV camera he introduces the next song by stating, “You are what you eat. You are what you wear. We say you are what you watch. Welcome to the 'Barry Williams Show.’" Filming himself singing as if he were on TV, Gabriel treads this circular platform commandingly, before breaking into yet another speech. This one was to introduce the new track ‘More Than This’: “People fail to notice what’s above them. The moon just sitting there in the sky. Which is why you should all look up and know that there is always ‘more to this.’ Eye-opening white strobe lights flood the stage and soon the hanging central display changes again to reveal a cloth ball which lights up with images of fire !
To the ultimate delight of the crowd, ‘Shock The Monkey’ is next, complete with monkey imitations galore from Gabriel and co. A small boat is then placed on the stage and he asks us to “Imagine it’s on a small lake and there’s a woman in it looking for her father.” Singing acoustic for a moment, the stage begins to slowly revolve and the song ‘Mercy Street’ is sung. ‘Digging In The Dirt’ comes next where now a large bubble wrap-looking ball is lowered and with the stage lights on it, becomes one huge disco ball ! As the orange-coated technicians run around like headless chickens, Gabriel gets himself inside the huge, huge ball and starts running it around the entire outside of the stage like a demented hamster in some sci-fi South Park rip-off ! Still singing ‘Growing Up,’ he never misses a beat and nor do his musicians who have to avoid getting flattened at all costs ! This is easily the most outrageous and incredible things that I have ever seen in my entire concert-going history ! Absolutely breathtaking and afterwards he comments that if there was "such a thing as karma then God may be a hamster" !
Culling from the Wild Thornberry’s soundtrack, the track ‘Animal Nation’ is sung with the two South African percussionists he brought out on tour as an opening act, before he introduces the whole band as a “bunch of reprobates." The next classic, ‘Solsbury Hill’ is vocally appreciated by the gathering, but what followed was just pure heaven itself. Starting off in a rather subdued manner, ‘Sledgehammer’ is quickly thumping its way out to the now ecstatic, up and jumping, fist-punching crowd. Wearing a coat made up of a hundred light bulbs, the classic tune was one thing, but the coat was a whole attraction animal of it’s own deal ! The two together was just an incredible sight to see, but what followed was great in its own way also as in a tribute to Fatti Ali Kahn, ‘Signal To Noise’ was sung, and sung well before they bring the show to its first climax with the classic solo track, ‘In Your Eyes.’
After a fairly long delay, the old, yet classic to all Genesis fans track ‘Family Snapshot’ comes forth, but he seems nervous singing it and even screws up the opening line and has to restart ! The stage is covered in an arctic blue glow and his voice is drowned out at times by the guitars and especially the drums. The song is solemn, quietly disturbing and not the way that this show deserved to end as it left everybody bemused, quiet and shaking their collective heads.
Photo and Review by Russell A. Trunk