Having employed the New Blood Orchestra for his 2010 orchestral covers album Scratch My Back and its follow-up re-recording of his own songs New Blood, the tech-loving hyper-Gandalf that is Peter Gabriel combined the two at the Hammersmith Apollo last March for this sensational set, marred only by guest vocalist Ane Brun trilling Don’t Give Up’s chorus into a nerve-knitting mess.
Otherwise it’s virtually flawless. Between Intruder’s growing, sawing tensions and plucked threat (Gabriel: “Don’t clap too long or we’ll do it again”) and Biko’s fresh aura of symphonic stateliness, a smatter of the best covers – particularly The Magnetic Fields’ The Book Of Love and Lou Reed’s The Power Of The Heart – make CD1 a magical warm-up.
But it’s CD2 of solely Gabriel tracks that’s the unadulterated delight: Blood Of Eden and Mercy Street are stringed sublimely, The Rhythm Of The Heat builds from Aborigine death dance to a cataclysm of primal afro-crescendo, while Solsbury Hill is such an ecstatic philharmonic release from two hours of dense but engrossing balladry and bombast, it should close The Proms every year. Stupendous.