Peter Gabriel hasn’t been particularly productive since his run of solo hits in the 1980s. His last album of new material (Up) was released in 2002. Since then he has recorded an album of covers called Scratch My Back, where the artists he covered were supposed to record their own versions of Gabriel tunes. That follow-up hasn’t materialized yet. Gabriel’s versions were all recorded orchestrally, without the usual guitars, bass and drums. As was this year’s New Blood, newly-recorded orchestral versions of Gabriel’s own songs. This DVD is a recording of the concerts held at London’s Hammersmith Apollo earlier this year in support of that album.
New Blood: Live In London features Peter Gabriel singing in front of a 46-piece orchestra along with two female vocalists Melanie Gabriel (Peter’s daughter) and Ane Brun (the Norwegian singer-songwriter). The songs come from all eras of Gabriel’s solo career and include four covers that were on Scratch My Back…Paul Simon’s The Boy In The Bubble, Regina Spektor’s Apres Moi, Stephin Merritt’s The Book Of Love and Lou Reed’s The Power Of The Heart.
Of the covers, The Book Of Love seems to adapt itself most readily to the orchestra arrangement and so, delivers the most emotional power. As Gabriel himself describes it, The Boy In The Bubble has “stripped all the African blood out of it…left with another miserable white man’s song”. While miserable may be too strong a term, sombre certainly describes it. That is the mood for most of the 2 hour and 20 minute concert.
Things liven up during a rousing version of Solsbury Hill and the audience raises its fists in solidarity during Biko. Both Brun and Melanie Gabriel have spotlight moments. Ane Brun fills in nicely for Kate Bush during Don’t Give Up and Melanie solos, a bit less successfully on Downside Up.
The concert was shot in 3D which explains some of the odd camera angles. It’s an admirable project and there are moments of beauty, but at almost 2 and a half hours, the show drags on a bit.
Gabriel admits during the brief doco called Blood Donors, included as a bonus feature, that this will be his last foray with the orchestra and that he has some new songs in the pipeline. It’ll be interesting to see what he comes up with next. Hopefully he won’t take a decade to release it.