On this Back to Front tour, Peter Gabriel is marking the 25th anniversary of his best-selling album, So – a collection very much of its time because of what was then state-of-the-art production but also, in its satirisation of economic greed and tender invocations to keep on through hard times, still all too relevant.
He opened the show, however, with a song so new that he hadn’t even finished the lyric, a luminous piano ballad which silenced the room, before he was joined by the musicians with whom he recorded So for what Gabriel called the starter – an acoustic mini-set performed in the full glare of the house lights.
This was followed by a meaty course of cuts from across his catalogue, including a defiant, theatrical Digging In The Dirt, a stormy, dystopian Self Control and a thoroughly charming Solsbury Hill, accompanied by a dazzling array of hardware, such as mobile lighting/camera rigs which loomed over the band like menacing aliens, along with an impressive side of unconventional choreog-raphy.
And then it was time for the sweet treat – So from end to end, though not always entirely as we knew it.
Here, the staging did not always serve the song and the empathy of Don’t Give Up, with Jennie Abrahamson breathily deputising for Kate Bush, was somewhat diluted by a reggae coda.
However, We Do What We’re Told was suitably Orwellian and overall this intelligent display of rock theatre properly exploited the capabilities of the arena.