Peter Gabriel at Selhurst Park
July 9th 1983
The crowd at the Crystal Palace Football Ground was capacity, and by their reception of earlier acts, Gaspar Lawal and the Undertones, it was clear who the vast majority were there to see. Banners with such legends as "Gabriel is God" abounded. Most of the crowd lay in the sun, blissfully unaware of the support acts, patiently awaiting the main event.
The Thompson Twins punchy electro-pop sound gradually caught the listeners attention as the sound quality improved following the initial numbers. Grey umbrellas adorned a stage well stocked with Prophet 600s, an OBXa and Simmons Drums.
The antics of Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway complimented the pseudo seriousness of such songs as 'Love On Your Side', 'Lies' and 'In The Name Of Love', while Tom Bailey's vocals emerged powerfully above the synthesised backdrop. The rhythm section were tight and the bassist particularly impressive on fretless.
The majority of the set was courtesy of their excellent 'Quick Step and Side Kick' album. The only evident newcomer was 'Your Lucky Day', yet another commercial dance tune, and although the Twins were impressive, they never won the audience's heart. Calls for an encore were ignored.
After a lengthy performance by his piano tuner, Peter Gabriel and the ensemble appeared on stage at 8.40 p.m., just as the sun was going down and launched into 'Across the River'. Co-written by Gabriel and Stewart Copeland (of the Police) this little-known track has only appeared as the B-side of 'I Have The Touch'. It began by Gabriel building up a vocal chord using a delay/harmoniser with Fairlight strings and guitar feedback adding depth. Then with a crashing bass chord from Tony Levin, the rhythm section entered, hammering out the riff, with Gabriel adding piano chords and vocals on top.
The quiet resolution of this piece was interrupted by the band punching out the introduction to 'I Have The Touch', as Peter Gabriel mimed his way through the 'rush hour'. In the "Only... Only... Wanting Contact" line, he exploited the out stretched hands from the audience by attempting to reach them, and during "shake those hands" he rushed round the stage, shaking hands with the band members (who managed to continue playing faultlessly despite this distraction). 'Not One Of Us' continued the aggressive feel as the audience shouted the title line in chorus with Gabriel.
'The Family And The Fishing Net' ("a song about rituals") marked a distinct change of mood, with Gabriel creeping about the half-lit stage, intoning the menacing verses over the unearthly backing (chiefly reversed Fairlight samples). The choruses were sung by the band emphasising the liturgical response phrasing of the chorus. Tony Levin used a remote keyboard to play the bass line on this track, abandoning his usual Chapman Stick. A quiet middle eight delivered by Gabriel sitting on the edge of the stage was electrifying.
With the beginning of 'Shock The Monkey' ("a hairy love song"), Gabriel left the stage and reappeared swinging from a scaffolding bar. He continued to "ape the ape" throughout the entire song, using a radio headset (as were the rest of the band) allowing complete freedom of movement and mime.
In contrast, for the narrative 'Family Snapshot', he sat at the piano and sang into a standard mic, as if the nature of the song made elaborate illustration unnecessary. This song was one of the most moving performances of the concert, the bass counterpointing the melody beautifully in the quiet personal passages, whilst in the up-tempo sections the full power of the band underlined the tension of the impending assassination.
'Intruder' found Gabriel once more on the prowl as the rivetting drum pattern and diminished fifth feel set an atmosphere of tension and menace. Sampled scrapes and clicks on the Fairlight and jagged guitar chords from David Rhodes completed the unpleasant backdrop to the threatening vocals, leaving one feeling distinctly unnerved. The whistling at the end sent shivers down the spine.
'Humdrum' (off the first album) started innocently enough but built to an epic grandeur as Larry Fast piled orchestral textures on top of Gabriel's CP80 and Prophet strings. This is perhaps the track which most shows his roots in 'pomp-rock' but this grandiose sound held up well in contrast to his recent sparser style.
Next followed a reworked version of 'Games Without Frontiers', based around Tony Levin's bass synth and sustained guitar lines from David Rhodes.
Then came the evening's big surprise! An unused drum kit had lain dormant next to Jerry Marotta's from the beginning, but now it was in use, as two drummers struck up the opening pattern of 'Lay Your Hands On Me'. Gabriel explained that Jerry Marotta had been doubtful for the gig because of a back injury. Phil Collins ("we looked in Yellow Pages under Drummers") had agreed to dep. if necessary. Jerry had been pronounced fit to play but "we got him (Collins) along to play anyway". This song turned into the highlight of the evening as it grew from the marimba in the spoken verses through the building vocal, synth and guitar lines of the bridge passages to the ecstatic "I am ready... I am waiting... I believe" lyrics of the chorus with band and audience together chorusing "Lay Your Hands On Me". The atmosphere was of a religious revival meeting, with Gabriel as the Messiah.
'Solsbury Hill' built on this feeling as the audience echoed Gabriel's every word, but the optimism and solidarity created was deliberately dispelled by the stark isolation of 'I Don't Remember' which followed, as he staggered bemused and uncomprehending around the stage, to the octave leaps of Tony Levin on Stick bass.
This sense of the individual alone in a hostile environment was developed by the Indian initiation ceremony of 'San Jacinto'. The Fairlight sequence was slowly augmented by hammered Stick bass, soaring descant lines on guitar and counter melodies on orchestral strings. The concluding section found Gabriel totally alone on stage, accompanied only by an unearthly backwards Fairlight sequence, lit by one white light at the foot of the platform on which he stood, intoning "Hold the line" in an ever-weakening voice. The light, the sequence and the voice disappeared. The set was over, and this final image persisted until the opening arpeggios of 'On The Air' announced the return of the band. A joyous performance with exuberant audience participation followed but all too soon they were gone again.
Gabriel returned in more sombre mood and as Collins and Marotta struck up the familiar African rhythm of 'Biko' on tom toms, he proceeded to explain the reasons for the concert, namely in aid of the Lincoln Trust, created to fight Apartheid. He introduced the founder, Donald Woods, and with the simple phrase, "this song is for his friend, Steve Biko", began the very moving damnation of South African political methods in song. "You can blowout a candle, but you can't blow out a fire", sang the entire audience as one man and the united atmosphere of a religious gathering returned, but this time in specific rejection of political oppression. As Gabriel left the stage he said,"it's up to you now", and the audience continued singing, even after the rest of the band had stopped playing.
Loud cries for more were not disappointed as the band returned with yet another percussionist, Allan Schartzberg (Gabriel's drummer on the first solo album and tour) to add to the fiery drumming of Collins and Marotta on 'Kiss of Life', which was even more powerful than the studio version. Band and audience alike lept up and down to the acapella rhythms. The quiet middle eight was in sharp contrast with its minor chords and lyrical vocals but it was soon back to the staccato beat of the chorus and the dancing started up again with renewed fervour.
A question and answer three-man percussion solo followed as the pace kept building to impossible fury and then suddenly, too soon, it was all over. The applause lasted so long that Gabriel brought the band back to make a final bow, but what could they have followed that frenzied 'Kiss of Life' with? Everybody left physically and emotionally drained.