Thursday, 15 April 2010

Bercy (something to remember)

One evening of last January I was navigating the web. On website there was a competition, one could win tickets for a date of the New Blood Tour. Some time before, I have been very lucky, because, thanks to Bower &Wilkins website, I won two tickets for Dengue Fever concert at Real World Studios. In that occasion I even met Peter in person... in short, something unrepeatable happened to me.
So, it would be impossible to me to win again... “Oh, well, at least I can dream!” I said to myself, while answering to the little question for the competition.
On the 15th of February, PG assistant sent to me an e-mail, telling that my dream was becoming real (again!).
This is a little story about this real dream.

Peter Gabriel concert
22nd of March 2010 – Palais Omnisport Paris Bercy

h 15: Soundcheck
After some familiar vicissitudes, on sunday the 21st of March I flight from Roma to Paris with a friend, and on monday afternoon we are in queue to assist to the soundcheck of the concert! This was beautiful, very moving and also instructive. Everybody would have to be able to see the setting for a concert at least once in a lifetime, to have an idea of all the work and the effort below! The audience was about one hundred people. Peter, Melanie, Ane Brun, and the whole Radio France Orchestra were rehearsing on the stage. It was nice to see them 'behind the scenes'. Peter was talking to chorus singers, to technicians, to the conductor (Ben Foster) and to the arranger (John Metcalfe). He appeared very, very serious, maybe also a little bit tense.
When we came in, they already were all there; he said hello to us. Every now and then he involved us in a song they were rehearsing. They were singing at low voice, without effort.
Soundcheck tracklist (not in order):
Heroes, Mirrorball, My body is a cage, Dowside up (with Melanie), Listening wind, Don't give up (with Ane Brun), Washing of the water interpreted by Melanie: very beautiful – but I like very much this song!
Peter, on going, said to the audience something like “See you later”. Afterwards, the brass played Flume. At this point, someone said we have to go out.
And when we were going, I heard they were starting to play Sledgehammer!

h 20: The Concert
One of the best PG concerts I had the fortune and the pleasure to be present at – if not the best!
I've got so many things to tell: musics, sounds, images, surprises and emotions.
At 19:55 Peter appeared on the stage;
talking in French, he introduced Ane Brun. He will talk in French during all the show (while during the soundcheck he was talking in English, but he was addressing mostly to the techicians).
Ane Brun, alone with her guitar, sang two beautiful songs, two folk/romantic ballads.
Behind her there was a big screen, that also worked as a curtain because it could go up and down.
In this way the orchestra could enter the stage in a way few visible by the audience. We were in the first row of the stand at the left of the stage, slightly elevated, and we could observe easily Peter's and orchestra movements.
Ane Brun said thanks to Peter, she said that it was a great honour to sing with him. “Thanks for listening”, and she has gone.
 After a some minute interval, the concert started. The entry on stage was exceptional: the screen-curtain elevate, and the orchestra start playing Sledgehammer. I think: “Really strange, as first song...”, public already in raptures, Peter come in triumphant, as marching on those fantastic notes ... after some bars Peter lowers his arm and stop! all stops, it was only a joke. Peter says: “Sledgehammer c'est fait, ce soir nous avons quelque chose different”.
The audience laugh surprised, the scene in effect was almost clownish.
Since this moment, a tracklist starts, comprising all the songs from Scratch my back, without exception and in the same order of the record.
Heroes is intense and moving, Peter is already at 100% with his voice!
There are two big screens at both sides of the stage, that are showing close-up of PG in black and white, or stage/orchestra details. Moreover, on the three screens behind the orchestra one can see various kind of images always related with the theme of any song. Images of the bigger screen (“curtain”) seem electron microscopy photos, like the erytrocytes on the Scratch my back cover.
The boy in the bubble
Very beautiful, geometric images, white lines like ripple marks and a red rectangle.
To me the most touching in the first part of the concert.
Very beautiful. Played by Tom Cawley, the pianist. Peter's voice is great.
Listening Wind
I love this song!
On the three big screens far back, a man, a child, and a woman. Looking at them with attention, one can see they aren't photos, but it's a video, in which the three protagonists are practically motionless. Then, the curtain-screen goes down, and it does a body scanning. This setting is very dramatic; the curtain acts as a body-scanner, by framing step by step a section of the body.
Fantastic song, and images totally appropriate with the song's meaning.
The power of the heart
The book of love (Melanie Gabriel and Ane Brun backing vocals)
Splendid cartoon with stylized images of a little man and a little woman, and of the book of love. I hope it will become the official video for this song!
My body is a cage
Après moi
I think it's going to rain today
Street spirit very, very beautiful.
Peter said that this was the first half of the concert, they will come back in some minute: “A bientôt”.
It was about 21:15.
After a short interval, I start to hear a known, obsessive sound... It's the intro of a song that I know... it's San Jacinto, “my” song!!! in a marvellous orchestral version! The second half of the concert will be like this: all of the most beautiful songs of PG in an orchestral version! To me this is a fantastic surprise, music will be gripping during most of the show, and I will often regret I have to sit down. San Jacinto. A ray of light started from down, lighting his face, that on the screens appear like a totem's owlet. At the end, he used a mirror ro reflect horizontally that ray on the public. San Jacinto. A sort of owl mask on the curtain-screen and Peter like a living totem. Sublime.
Other songs – not in order:
The rhythm of the heat
Wonderful; final percussions by timpani, totally deafening and wonderful. On screens, desert and Africa images.
Digging in the dirt
False start: Peter after few seconds raise his hand, stops the orchestra, and says that “l'ordinateur ne marche plus”! laughters... after a pair of minutes all starts again! Thanks to the technician, and it's again Digging in the dirt: music into the silence! Great song, fantastic arrangement. On the background, images of worms, maybe larves of flesh flies. A silver ball came down from above, it was a camcorder. He framed himself, like he used to do on stage, then the audience, by leaving the camcorder free to oscillate/rotate.
And someone must explain to me why an entire orchestra have to stop if the computer doesn't work! :-)
Downside up
In duet with Melanie

Stupend! on screens, inside some squares (5x5), there are close-up positive/negative of PG in 3 colors, sky blue white black. Peter explained he wrote this song for a young man that was tortured, that he met thanks to Amnesty International.
Introduced as a “song about fear”, very beautiful orchestral version
Melanie sang alone Washing of the water, one of the songs I like more; I much liked her interpretation.
Signal to noise
Absolute masterpiece. This time, unlike other concerts I attended to, without the recorded voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Images of Peter and of other musicians, distorted by acustic waves or spectrograms. Fantastic matching of images and music, still very appropriated.
Blood of Eden
Very beautiful, final break like in the other live versions.
Don't give up
With Ane Brun, very good.
Solsbury Hill
“Now something more joyful”
Very joyful indeed. Peter was jumping like an elf around the orchestra and the singers, white light everywhere. The audience: bum bum bum!
In the finale the orchestra mixed it with the Ode to Joy!
A little break before the encore.

Music starts again: In your eyes. They are still all behind the curtain, but you can hear a known voice, doing some trill: the screen goes up, and Peter has a mirrorball-cap. Next by him, white-dressed, no doubt, there is Youssou N' Dour!!!
They sing together, and they dance a little bit, like they were two kids.
Audience standing, someone starts to get near the stage.

Then he said: “Quelque chose pour bye bye”.
And they executed The nest that sailed the sky. So beautiful and peaceful! Video of the child inside the nest, sailing the river (from OVO).
It's an instrumental, and so he left the stage. At the end, we hear some little note on the piano. It was dark, but looking at the big screen there were other hands that from the pianist; I said to myself: “I know these hands”! so I looked better and I understood: he played to us another little joke...

He said hello and he left the stage, I saw him in the semi-darkness, embracing some people, friends or relatives, who knows...!

about h 23: after the concert
When all ended, we stayed some minute watching what was happening. Immediately, all was swarming with technicians and workers starting to dismantle all, from screens to chairs of the parterre. still having the passes of the afternoon, we went down, near the stage. There were about 12-15 people chatting, waiting near the barrier. Over it, the huge boucers. I've noticed a beautiful young man that was joking. I looked at him, and I said to my friend: It seems to me he's Daby Tourè!
I went near to him, and I asked with my uncertain English... “Yes” he answered, I shaked his hand “Nice to meet you” smiling, very happy. He was very very kind and did a big smile. His handshake was very energetic and joyful!
We talked a little, he appeared surprised that I came there from Italy. I told him about when I saw him in concert with Peter at Roma (Capannelle) in 2004. I talked about my remixes, he asked to me what was last song I remixed, but my brain was totally fogged at that point, and I wasn't be able to say anything coherent!
In the meantime, they opened the barrier; everybody is entering, and Daby says: “Come in!”; while walking, I think that Peter will be somewhere, back there!
Just some step, a few meters, and one of these boucers start crying in our direction that no, we don't have the VIP pass!!
Damn!!! I think this never would happen in Italy... I don't know if it's good or bad, but...
Daby did a sad face, I shrugged my shoulders and “Say hello to Peter!” I said.
And so we had to go; all the doors being already closed, they took us to the exit...
Well, I was very happy for having met Daby. I much admire him as an artist, and now I know he's a nice person too. Maybe I'll write to him, so I'll be able to say what song I remixed last. My dream is like a mirrorball, a lot of shining faces.
                                                                     Paola AKA tethia
                                                                        12 aprile 2010

PS On YouTube Beluga 1968 user posted lots of very beautiful videos of both the soundcheck and the concert, have a look!


  1. Wow, what an excellent and lively description of the concert. It’s almost like I had been there myself (and I wish I would have been there). Based on this review you have strong literary skills besides your musical skills.

    Scratch my Back is a great album. It's a pity that they have arranged so few orchestral concerts and in so few places. But maybe they will release a DVD, so that I will also have the possibility the see it. And of course there is YouTube :-). Anyway thanks a lot for taking the trouble of writing this. I'm glad that you had this opportunity to go to the concert!

    All the best,

  2. I was already wondering why there was not a single comment of yours concerning your visit of this concert. Now I understand: You were working on the BIG one...

    Speechless to hear that you won again, but by this wonderful review of yours I propose to send you to any of the following RW-concerts. Thank you for this wonderful report.

  3. Grandissima tethia!

    molta, ma molta (positiva) invidia!!!

    Sono contentissimo per la tua straordinaria esperienza!

    Mi ricorda ancora la mia - lontana nel tempo ('80) - a firenze e genova (troppo lunga da raccontare qui) che mi portò a ottenere anche un autografo di pg sulla borsa (prima di essere buttato fuori dalla security...)

    Chissà se verrà mai nella nostra roma...

    Un caro saluto,

    andrea "idefix" r.

  4. @Pegasus
    >It’s almost like I had been there myself
    I'm very happy for this, that's the reason why I tried to share my sensations!
    >You were working on the BIG one
    :-))) Yes it's true
    >I propose to send you to any of the following RW-concerts
    Totally agree with your proposal!! I hope they will follow your suggestion! :-)
    PG nel 1980... accidenti, io mi sono resa conto che esisteva un paio d'anni dopo, con Shock the Monkey, e l'ho visto dal vivo per la prima volta nel 1993, al Palaghiaccio di Marino.
    Speriamo che il New Blood Tour approdi anche qui in Italia!!!

    Thank you very much for all the comments!
    It's important to me to share with you my experience :-)