Monday, April 23, 2012

Music Review: Peter Gabriel, LIVE BLOOD

Peter Gabriel's Live Blood is a 22-track double CD follow-up concert recording to last year's New Blood, an album in which Gabriel reinvented several of his and others' compositions for orchestra. Recorded live in London in 2011, Live Blood encompasses songs from Gabriel's entire solo career that began in 1976 when he left his home base as front man for Genesis.

It is no surprise that this is a stunning live album with pitch perfect interpretations enshrined by the 46-piece New Blood Orchestra as naturally as a gust of wind. A violin soaked Wallflower from 1982's Security (released as Peter Gabriel in the UK) is ethereal with the strings bleeding compassion for the song's theme of socio-global imprisonment and torture. It is a particularly fine rendition of a song that now seems originally designed for orchestra.

Likewise, Paul Simon's The Boy In The Bubble from 2010's album of cover songs Scratch My Back, (a proposed follow-up album And I'll Scratch Yours has yet to materialize), dramatically nails the heart of Simon's pop infused Afro-rhythmic view of social inequality with a sobering interpretation. Gabriel slyly and apologetically introduces the song by saying, "we stripped all the African blood out of it and we're left with another miserable white man's song".

The Magnetic Fields' The Book of Love and Lou Reed's The Power of Your Heart are given beautifully crafted string arrangements that sound simply heavenly. Downside Up becomes a danceable hand-clapping swirl of orchestra and band, and Mercy Street, inspired by Anne Sexton's poem of the same name, is a sad and ghostly lament of childhood lost that sounds alarmingly delicate when heard live.

One of Gabriel's most familiar songs, Solsbury Hill, is celebratory with the audience joining in on the "boom, boom, boom" vocal refrain and Beethoven's Song of Joy naturally drifting into the closing bars.

There is a genuine concert hall feeling to the album, although Frampton Comes Alive it certainly is not. Gabriel interrupts on several occasions to give credit to individual instrumentalists, vocalists, and arrangers, and finally gives a special mention to the tech and stage crew that is as heartfelt as Jackson Browne's The Load Out. You can just feel a tireless roadie beaming with pride at the probably unexpected acknowledgement.

Live Blood is the next best thing to being there, and for this music lover and Gabriel fan, a well deserved cosmic-psyche getaway for a rainy weekend.

this review was first published by me here