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 he reinvented several of his and others’ compositions for orchestral versions. 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 frontman 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 U.K.) is ethereal with the strings bleeding with 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 an 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. With a sly humor, Gabriel introduces the song by saying, “We stripped all the 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 and 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 several times to give credit to individual instrumentalists, vocalists and arrangers, and then 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 perfect cosmic-psyche getaway on a rainy weekend.