If Peter Gabriel’s conceptual i/o tour could be boiled down to one simple idea, it’s that time is running out, but there is still time left. Billions of years are behind us, but time appears to be moving faster than ever. Kicking off a nearly 3-hour set of expertly crafted songs, Gabriel touched on topics such as the passage of time and the potential impact of AI on our society today. His philosophical musings could easily be misconstrued as ad-hoc ramblings, but they’re a culmination of decades of work. 22 songs threaded together across two sets, weaving an intricate picture of what it means to be alive, sometimes with a ribald joke or two thrown in.
Gabriel stepped out on stage alone, pulling a light down from the ceiling of Wells Fargo Center Saturday night, to ignite a flame in the center of the stage. As he waxed poetic about the beginning of time, he was slowly joined by a cadre of musicians. It became clear quickly that while the tour may be under his name, it was a family affair.First out on the stage was storied bassist Tony Levin (King Crimson), who helped kick things off with a somber performance of “Washing Of The Water.” Gathered around the campfire, dimly lit at the front of the stage, they were joined by Manu Katche (percussion), David Rhodes (guitar), Don-E (keyboard), Richard Evans (guitar), Ayanna Witter-Johnson (cello), Marina Moore (violin), and Josh Shpak (trumpet). Just about everyone helped with vocal duties, with Gabriel frequently backing off a bit so the whole group could shine.
Despite the length of the show (split into two sets with no opening act), this was not a career retrospective by any means but rather an introduction to his upcoming album i/o. Around half of the evening’s 22 songs were from the forthcoming effort, his first in a decade, and one that even he might admit is long overdue (some of the songs he’s been performing live for years). That’s not to say that the audience wasn’t treated to any classics (did anyone ever doubt we were going to get rousing renditions of “Sledgehammer” and “Solsbury Hill?”), but the focus was on the future.
Backed by truly impressive sets created by a variety of artists from around the world, the visual design of the show was phenomenal. Starting intimately close in a semi-circle at the front of the stage, the musicians eventually spread out as impressive LED screens displayed thematically rich art, designed at times to pull your focus away from the musicians and into the music via hypnotic displays. It is clear that the future Peter Gabriel has plotted out for us is bright, and I’m looking forward to diving in to i/o when it drops later this year.