Peter Gabriel has always used his concerts for something much more ambitious than merely singing his favorite songs live. This Wednesday (April 23), viewers will get a chance to go inside his recent Back to Front tour by way of a concert film being shown in theaters around the country.
“Back to Front” which was highlighted by the presentation of his 1986 album “So” in its entirety, was shot at London’s O2 Arena in October. The film is being shown--in high-definition video with 5.1 surround sound in some theaters--as part of Fathom Events' ongoing series of one-night-only pop and classical music and dance presentations.
Gabriel, who for a second time was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his solo efforts earlier this month, put the Back to Front tour together on the heels of a 25th anniversary reissue of “So.” The album included songs that became cornerstones of his repertoire, including “Red Rain,” “Sledgehammer,” “In Your Eyes” and his duet with Kate Bush, “Don’t Give Up.”
In addition, the shows incorporated songs from across his more than 30-year solo career, among them “Solsbury Hill,” “Shock the Monkey,” “Digging in the Dirt,” “No Self Control” and “Biko.” (During the 2012 tour stop at the Hollywood Bowl, actor John Cusack appeared onstage with Gabriel, a boom box hoisted over his head during “In Your Eyes,” replicating the scene using that song in his 1989 film “Say Anything.”)
Between songs, director Hamish Hamilton intercuts interview segments with Gabriel and band members: longtime bassist Tony Levin, drummer Manu Katché, keyboardist David Sancious, guitarist David Rhodes and singers Jennie Abrahamson and Linnea Olsson. I also captures some enlivening bits of choreography with Gabriel and the band.
“It has been wonderful working with Hamish Hamilton again and his very talented team,” Gabriel said in a statement. “I feel they have really caught what was unique about the Back to Front tour, both visually and emotionally.”
Gabriel talks about writing “Why Don’t You Show Yourself” after an invitation from Mexican filmmaker Guillermo Arriaga for music to accompany a series of short movies about God, sex and drugs. Gabriel describes the song as a way of exploring “the search for God….it’s an unusual slant on spirituality, with a high level of doubt.”
He also says the appeal of performing an album in its entirety was reinforced for him when he attended one of Brian Wilson’s performances of the Beach Boys’ watershed album “Pet Sounds” from beginning to end.
While it can be difficult to capture the grand-scale elements that Gabriel often builds into his concerts, the film has the advantage of an inside view of the interplay among the musicians and the dynamics of innovative lighting rigs that swoop and rise during various numbers as if they’re mechanical dinosaurs.
Details on locations and tickets for “Peter Gabriel: Back to Front” are available at Fathom Events.
As a sample, here's Gabriel's performance of "In Your Eyes":
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