Peter Gabriel Plays Live

It's a mild December evening in the Bay Area. Devin, 20, grabs his ticket and heads off to the San Jose Civic Auditorium, an intimate venue holding around 1500 people. His ticket states "Bill Graham Presents - Peter Gabriel - Sunday Dec 19, 1982." He's off to the show with friend Todd in tow, who puts a freshly made mix-tape of obscure progressive rock into the car stereo.. music blaring as they fly down the road, they arrive at the venue around sundown. 

Devin walks inside the main auditorium, the stage is small, all black, garnished with three unleveled hexagons along with a monkey bar... minimal and stark. He had no idea what he was in for.. sure, he loved Peter's latest release, Security, but to see it LIVE was something hard to comprehend. 

The house lights go down and a spotlight shines on the back of the hall... Devin's eyes widen, pupils dilate as a loud "Thu-Thump" fills the air and once again... "Thu-Thump." He looks behind him and out from the back of the venue appears the band, arm in arm. Drummer Jerry Marotta steady pounding with a thunderous bass drum around his neck... the beat is consistent as it vibrates the auditorium. The audience parts to let the undiscovered legends through. Devin is on the floor around 6ft from the stage, no security, no border between the crowd and band. 

He looks up and there's the man of the hour... looking like a deity from a world all his own. 32 year old Gabriel, wearing a white fluffy coat.. Face painted in a subdued version of his iconic monkey face pictured on the front of the Plays Live album..

Peter dances across the stage, strange and erratic movements as he jumps from hexagon to hexagon.. they light the way as he makes animalistic gestures during his hit Shock the Monkey.. swinging from the high beam he had a way of making a simple stage feel ten feet tall. This man had the crowd at the tip of his fingers, they were enthralled. 

The loud thud of drums starts again as the intro of Lay Your Hands On Me begins... Peter moving his own hands like knives through the darkness. His lyrics invade the night, everyone wanting a piece of him as he makes the great fall into the sea of people. An arms length away from Devin, he reaches out... At this point he knew this was a revelation, not just a concert.

Peter then goes into his anti-apartheid anthem, Biko. A song he would later be known for ending the majority of his shows with.. he always had a way of connecting with his audience so resolutely.. his gaze, his presence, his lyrics brought some sense to humanity. He showed that music can communicate the emotion behind justice and injustice. He made us empathize with the intruder and sympathize with the victim. 

At the end of Biko Peter repeats the last wails with one fist in the air, Devin and the crowd mimic in return. This was before protest songs became mainstream, this was a breakthrough and at the time they really did believe they could change the world.

Peter says, "the rest is up to you" places the mic on the stage and walks off.

The audience continues to sing... they sing and they don't stop... the room was electric and the passion from the crowd was something extraordinary.

After five minutes of deafeningly loud singing, Peter graciously returns and thanks them... Devin knew this was a night he would carry with him for a lifetime. 


This is my Dad... Devin. Yes, he really did get to experience this incredible evening and has the ticket stub and shirt to show it! As most of you know, I am very passionate about Peter's music and it all stems from this amazing guy... Thanks Dad! :) 

Peter Gabriel Plays Live is an iconic album with recordings compiled of live performance's from his tour after the release of Security in 1982, his fourth solo album. Although incredible in their original state, these songs take on a new life with the live performances. Peter's voice has a warmth that resonates with the room sound of the auditorium. Tony Levin's bass comes through heavier and more detailed, listen close and you can hear the vibrations as his fingers brush against each string. This record makes you appreciate the musicianship of the band, they sound as good if not better than the original record. Typically I don't prefer live albums as it is hard to get a good level with the instrumentation, but this record is just so beautifully balanced. 


Peter has always had a way of empathizing with the killer, so to speak. He knows how to place himself in the mind of another man and break apart their conscience... finding the deeper understanding as to why humanity reacts the way it does. A good example of this is Family Snapshot which delves into the assassination of a presidential figure. He takes on the eyes of the shooter and helps the listener to visualize the vulnerability and pain which fueled the madness of a man leading to an action so evil. 

Come back Mom and Dad

You're growing apart

You know that I'm growing up sad

I need some attention

I shoot into the light.


And lastly, I will leave you with this.

Although filmed at a later date, this is an example of this man's charisma and intensity. 

Lay Your Hands On Me - Athens - 1987 

But still the warmth flows through me,

And I sense you know me well.

No luck, no golden chances,

No mitigating circumstances now.

It's only common sense

There are no accidents around here.



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