It’s a brave man who opens an arena show with a tune he hasn’t even finished yet.
But Peter Gabriel is as Peter Gabriel does. Which means that tonight he starts at the piano, the house lights still up, and runs through the sombre work-in-progress that is What Lies Ahead.
It’s a disarming entrée that sets the tone for the rest of the evening, with Gabriel serving up an ambitious theatre that skilfully balances the well-worn with the experimental. Cue stripped versions of Come Talk To Me and Shock The Monkey, while he and the band share the stage with a busy tangle of portable cranes, giant spotlights and sinister-looking blokes in boiler suits. The main focus, as on the previous Back To Front Tour, is the full rendering of 1986’s So. Yet while the likes of Sledgehammer, Mercy Street and Red Rain sound suitably grand, it’s the other stuff that really pumps the heart: Family Snapshot and No Self Control are both emphatically powerful, suggesting that when it comes to delivering classic albums in their entirety, 1980’s Peter Gabriel (his third, aka Melt) might be the next logical step. The bouncing chords of Solsbury Hill, meanwhile, are the cue for a mass outbreak of communal joy.
Now well into his 60s, Gabriel remains that most elusive of vintage rock stars: a crowd pleaser with artistic curiosity fully intact.