Peter Gabriel

Show Review: Peter Gabriel in Dallas

Show Reviews

Peter Gabriel show in Dallas

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Peter Gabriel brought his 2023 North American i/o tour to Dallas’ American Airlines Arena this past Thursday evening, his first stop in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area in well over a decade. Touring once again in support of his highly anticipated new album, i/o which officially releases on December 1st. Gabriel has released several new singles this year beginning on January 6th, using each subsequent full moon cycle as a release date for a new track.

The album is Gabriel’s first proper full-length studio release in over 20 years, and the album has reportedly been in the works for even longer. Thursday night in Dallas, Gabriel masterfully and artfully introduced fans to these new songs while also delivering the hits throughout a captivating performance that really hit the mark.

Some how, some way, until this past Thursday night, I’d never seen Peter Gabriel perform live. I’d been originally set to see the Houston date of his remarkable Secret World Tour back in 1993 but, something or another that I no longer recall came up last minute, and I regretfully missed the show. It’s troubled me over the years, and I’ve always considered catching Gabriel one of my “bucket list” artists I needed to see should the opportunity present itself again. When the current tour dates were announced, I immediately perused the dates, circling the Dallas date as most feasible for me to travel to. I submitted my media request to cover it, and patiently waited. My patience was ultimately rewarded, with an approval email a mere 48 hours prior to the performance. Thankfully, I was able to pull a few last minute strings at work, and I happily headed southward, Dallas bound full of anticipation.

Taking the stage solo shortly after 8pm, Gabriel welcomed the Dallas audience, with an introductory talk addressing much of the inspiration and background behind his new music, and welcoming longtime collaborator, bassist Tony Levin. and kicking things off with a stripped down version of “Washing in the Water” as the remainder of Gabriel’s incomparable band slowly joined the duo onstage and in song. Even the word incomparable seems simply inadequate in describing the musicians sharing the stage with Gabriel. Like Levin, many of these musicians have performed and recorded with Gabriel throughout the years and it was an absolute treat to witness them perform these songs throughout the evening. Joining Gabriel and Levin were dummer Manu Katche, guitarist David Rhodes, guitarist and mandolin player Richard Evans, Don-E on keys, Josh Shpak on horns, violinist Marina Moore and cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson.

The evening’s performance was two and a half hours in length, and spread out over two sets. Production-wise, though notably scaled back from previous tour endeavors, it was no less magnificent. Utilizing video screens and effects as artfully as ever, Gabriel nonetheless primarily kept the evening’s focus on exactly what he should have, the music. Over the course of the evening, nearly the entire track list of the upcoming i/o was performed, with the majority of the first set centered around the album’s powerful songs including, the first single, “Panopticom,” “Playing for Time” was also presented along with my personal favorite, “Four Kinds of Horses,” the title track, and the lovely “Olive Tree.” Though the new songs were well received, it was the hits ”Digging in the Dirt,” and the set closing “Sledgehammer” that brought the mostly seated audience finally to their feet.

The second set initially resumed its focus on the new material, presenting “Darkness,” the powerful “Love Can Heal,” and “The Road to Joy” before delivering just an amazing version of “Don’t Give Up” which spotlighted an incredible vocal performance on the duet between Gabriel and cellist and vocalist Ayanna Witter Johnson, who would again take center stage with Gabriel sharing vocals on “In Your Eyes.” It was these more well known songs that really brought the audience to life, with “Red Rain,” “Big Time” and the set closing “Solsbury Hill” all being performed to perfection in fresh new arrangements and which were widely appreciated by the crowd. Still, the newer songs also managed to strike a chord with me, with songs such as a mesmerizing “The Court” and the subtle “So Much” and the timely “Live and Let Live” all giving me incredible optimism that Gabriel’s vision is still on target.

The Dallas audience was attentive and respectful, though often lackluster in the exchange of the “give and take” energy needed between performer and audience. Gabriel seemed to recognize this, and tailored those portions of the show accordingly, perhaps even shortening a few of those song performances which may have even resulted in the addition of an extra song within the encore portion. Resuming the stage for the encore portion, Gabriel led the band through a fairly rare performance of “The Tower That Ate People” from Gabriel’s 2000 soundtrack of OVO. The song has only been performed live a handful of times in the past few years, yet sounded remarkable, and was definitely a special treat. The aforementioned “In Your Eyes” followed before the evening ended with a memorable performance of “Biko,” perhaps one of the most moving performances I’ve seen over the years.

By the time you’re reading this the tour will likely have concluded its final night, and I can only hope that you were fortunate enough to have attended one of the dates. Undoubtedly, more dates will likely follow i/o ‘s December release, so keep your eyes peeled for those.

It’s always somewhat bittersweet for me to finally be checking off one of my “bucket list” concerts. Oftentimes, the anticipation outweighs the actual performance. That was far from the case here. This time, the performance far exceeded my expectations. Gabriel remains one of the most creative and vibrant performers recording and performing today.

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