Last Night: Peter Gabriel At Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

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Photos by Jay Lee
Peter Gabriel
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
June 16, 2011

Rock writers right now - hell, everyone with a musical soul - are living in the most interesting of times. No, it's not because we can pull any album we want down out of the sky at any time of day. It's because we get to watch the best living artists of the past century age grow with, and into, their art.

We get to see artists at the end of their allotted physical life span assess their time here on earth on record and in concert. It reminds us our own mortality, and the mortality of these people we have lionized collectively. The best we can do is hope to pass the time with grace and gratitude that it is even there for us to use.

This weekend is Father's Day, and fathers, and to a greater extent the passing of time figured into Peter Gabriel's set Thursday night at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. With the stage-filling New Blood Orchestra, made up of his own team and a few freelance musicians from Houston, Gabriel was able to make nearly three hours of haunting and emotionally captivating work.

Without the use of drums or guitar, using only classical instruments and one of the best voices that pop music has ever heard, last night's show was a shattering, soul-affirming journey.

If given the choice, we will always gladly take an orchestra over a rock band dishing out rote "greatest hits" for a hooting and whistling crowd. There is something infinitely more human and endearing to us about a brood of people all working in concert with each other than the usual rock and roll trappings. There is a time and place for each, and luckily Gabriel's still-growing catalog is perfect for an orchestra.

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It had to be this way for Gabriel, "Sledgehammer" be damned.

If the idea of a Gabriel show with no guitars or drums bothers you, then you haven't been paying attention to his career from Genesis on. He's never done anything per the unwritten rules of rock, and he's not going to at age 61. He doesn't owe that to you. Yeah, he's paying for an '80s pop period that lame folks don't want to shake, but Gabriel has a lot more to offer than 40 nights of "Ya remember this ditty from 1986?"

What he's doing now is two sets a night, both with the New Bloods, the first of which includes some of his more dire works like "Darkness" and "Washing of the Water," along with stripped-to-the-marrow covers of modern artists who have plundered plenty from his own career, most of which you can find on last year's covers disc, Scratch My Back. The post-intermission set sees reworkings of some of his classics and grimmer passages you may have forgotten.

Opening with David Bowie's "Heroes," the mood was set to subdued and visceral, with the Bowie classic a slow burn. The lighting effects around Gabriel and the orchestra meshed into the music like a third member of the traveling show. "Boy In The Bubble," the lead-off hitter on Paul Simon's Graceland, is a jaunty African tune in Simon's hands, but Gabriel treated it like a claustrophobic and bloody dirge. It's now positively 21st century, and all about the fear of ourselves.

The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all
The way we look to a distant constellation
That's dying in a corner of the sky


Location Info

Map

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

2005 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, TX

Category: Music


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16 comments
Diane
Diane

Also a long, long time follower. PG is so special and unique, doubt he will ever get in theR&R Hall of Fame ( and would guess he could care less) Agree with Neil about the credibility.Great show- traveled from Hawaii to NYC to Houston to see him on my birthday. ( gave himthe lei during In Your Eyes.....) Probably a bit tipsy at the end, but hopefully not a problemfor anyone else ( not involved in any fights....)   just a happy Lunatic.  point taken about drinking excessively at the kind of venue

KT
KT

In my opinion, The Rhythm of the Heat was probably the highlight for me.  I also liked seeing Darkness thrown in there.  Great show! I had a blast, with the exception of the odd drunk guy next to us acting a little goofy through most of the show.

nava
nava

gabriel is pretty effin awesome and his version of my body is a cage takes some awesome lyrics and gives them musical justice.

Patrick
Patrick

If you were in row J dead center The lady behind me was the fight. Talk about rude, with no real concert edict! I understand this was not the Houston Symphony but she made it a point for the guy beside me and I that she paid the same price as we did 179 bones and that we would never see her again so she could be as loud and obnoxious as she could ever be. Then it got worse her boyfriend I think was clapping and hit the guy's head beside me and he turned around and got a ear full of F bomb! If thats the fight you were talking about I was there, and for my first Peter Gabriel concert a great one turned fair because of that woman and her boyfriend. Take the good with the bad the good always outweighs the bad. BTW I do go to the Houston Symphony and if she acted that way in Jones Hall she would have so out of there. The only problem with Jones is that you can't drink inside and that would have been fine by me because I am sure they would have not been there.

Simply-Bookkeeping
Simply-Bookkeeping

Peter Gabriel, getting better with age. A musical and artistic genius....

Julie Holden
Julie Holden

Wonderful review! Thank you so much for GETTING it, Craig! This is spot on. It was an amazing show.

Duffman
Duffman

I've seen Gabriel every time he's stopped in Houston. Always the consummate artist, I would have rather witnessed him with a backing band. Regretably the days of Fripp and Levin have passed. Regardless, I did enjoy the show.

Guest
Guest

Good review about an amazing show.  Just one correction...I believe he sung Wallflower after Heroes and before Après Moi.

jodi
jodi

Peter Gabriel and The New Blood Orchestra was one of the best concerts I have ever seen.  The arrangements were phenominal!  Peter is a wonderful story teller and his voice and range is amazing! Despite the heat, 91 degrees at 7 p.m., the musical performance blowing off the stage, not only transported one out of their personal discomfort, but took them to a place of genius and talent, all the while reminding us of what is important in the scheme of life and really how fortunate or unfortunate we are to be here.  It was a one of a kind experience...brilliant! 

Chuck
Chuck

One of the better concert reviews I've read, Craig.

I also love that Peter is still reinventing himself, and his music, at 61. The first Peter Gabriel concert I went to was nearly 28 years ago. Perhaps, if he lives as long as his father (let's hope!) he'll still be amazing us with something new for decades to come.

Neil
Neil

I don't believe the R&R Hall of Fame ever had a whole lot of credibility, but whatlittle they had was pretty much demolished when the Bee Gees were inducted.

Guest
Guest

Have been to many, many shows, and wasn't sure what to expect from this one, but was so pleasantly surprised. It was one of the best concert experiences I've ever had. The combination of Peter Gabriel with an orchestra + fantastic arrangements + perfect light show packed an incredible, walloping punch.....amazing!

Cindy
Cindy

It was my first Peter Gabriel concert as well, and I also endured loud and obnoxious drunks behind me and got into a squabble with them as well. We drove 6 hours for our chance to see him.  My husband had asked them nicely twice to stop talking so loud so that we could enjoy the concert and they only got louder. So we stood up in order to hear the concert without hearing about what they had done for the last 2 weeks. The drunk behind us stoood up and cussed us out and the security guard had to get involved. It was embarrassing, because no one could tell who was at fault. We were sitting close to the stage as well, and I looked back at the stage to see Melanie watching in disbelief! I'm sure PG saw most of it. Why me! My husband and I consider ourselves his biggest fans!! Still, a very good night and my memories will not include that fiasco.

Classic Rock Bob
Classic Rock Bob

In the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:Buddy Guy, Brenda Lee, Jimmy Cliff, Percy Sledge, the Dells

Not in:Deep Purple, Chicago, the Doobie Brothers, Journey, Yes, Jethro Tull, Grand Funk Railroad, The E Street Band

'Nuff said.

Katy
Katy

I think the Hall of Fame is (founder) Jan Wenner's personal music playground, and Wenner has never been a big fan of progressive rock or art rock.

Anyone who has experienced Peter Gabriel #3 or "Security" isn't likely to forget it, Hall of Fame be damned.

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