Does anyone besides me miss the old Peter Gabriel?
You know, the guy who used to dress like a giant flower, or wear a rectangular shaped box on his head, all the while reciting nonsensical stories to introduce his songs with Genesis in concert? Or how about the guy who, as a solo artist, made those wonderfully arty, but nonetheless goofy videos for songs like "Sledgehammer"?
That Peter Gabriel is all but gone on New Blood - Live in London, a new concert DVD that also serves as a companion piece to his latest album New Blood. Instead, Gabriel has opted to join the likes of Sting and David Byrne in that exclusive "artistes club" of aging, white rock musicians continuing their careers during their twilight years, by running as far away from their rock and roll pasts as possible.
Like both Sting and Byrne, Gabriel has long displayed a flair for the more "artistic" side of rock and roll. But for most fans, songs like "Roxanne," "Burning Down The House" and "Shock The Monkey" remain far more memorable than any experiments in world beat, classical, or in this case, a re-imagining of past work recorded with a 46 piece symphony orchestra.
In fairness to Gabriel, it works better here than on previously ill-fated attempts at merging rock with classical by artists ranging from Deep Purple to Spinal Tap. It's an interesting enough idea in theory. But in most cases, it's usually a failed one in actual execution. Although there are those few and far between exceptions here, New Blood - Live in London mostly continues the long tradition of that rule.
The problem here, is that by removing rock elements as basic as guitar, bass and drums, some of Gabriel's best songs lose a lot of their original firepower. On this DVD, Gabriel wisely steers clear of his more funk based, hit material like "Sledgehammer," in favor of a setlist heavier on deep album cuts like "Intruder" and "San Jacinto."
But in these newly sanitized by strings arrangements, you can't help but notice the lack for those little things that made the originals such standout tracks. The absence of the big drums of "Intruder" and the rising keyboard swells of "San Jacinto" in particular are both sorely missed here.