Review : Peter Gabriel - Live Blood
PopmattersIf you happen to be a simple fly-by-night Peter Gabriel fan, someone who turns the the car stereo up a few notches whenever “In Your Eyes” happens to land on a local radio station and refers to him as only “that dude who made that neat video sometime in the ‘80s”, then Live Blood, the recently released double-disc set featuring the former Genesis frontman singing songs in front of a 46-piece orchestra, is probably not something you will take a great deal of interest in. Or, in other words, you might as well give up on this review right now.
Conversely, if you happen to fancy yourself a lifelong Peter Gabriel uber-fan who has an unwavering love for Tony Levin and David Rhodes—two musicians who have been by the singer’s side whenever he has toured for decades now—and you prefer such deep cuts as “Moribund The Burgermeister” and “The Barry Williams Show” over such massive hits as “Sledgehammer” or “Solsbury Hill”, there is one thing you must get through your head right now about Live Blood, the recently released double-disc set featuring the former Genesis frontman singing songs in front of a 46-piece orchestra: It’s not nearly as bad or boring as you might think it is. Or, in other words, you might want to stick around for the rest of this review.
There. Now that that’s out of the way, we can proceed.
Pretentious? Of course. Unnecessary? Without a doubt. A justifiable excuse for the singer to whine about his money troubles in an issue of Rolling Stone? Not really. The quintessential Peter Gabriel live album? Pllllleaaaaassse (That award will forever go to his Secret World set by a mile).
But is Live Blood an interesting, if not sometimes understated, interpretation of some of the songs that made the singer a household name all while exploring the depths of exactly how far one can take other artists’ songs without completely ruining the idea of his recent Scratch My Back series? Sure. In fact, it’s probably even better than that....full text
ConsequenceofsoundPeter Gabriel has worn many hats and countless costumes over his 40-year career. He emerged out of a rising phone booth during his Secret World tour 20 years ago and even rode a bike around the stage during “Solsbury Hill” on his Growing Up tour a decade later. This evidence points to extravagance coupled with invention, without much embarrassment. So it came as a surprise when Gabriel went full-blown orchestral in 2010 with his covers album, Scratch My Back, and again in 2011 with reinventions of his own tracks on New Blood. Both were successful, because the songs were brand-new pictures of a time gone by. The issue with the release of Live Blood is that it comes across as the same photo, with no change at all.
The tricky bit about heaping criticism on this album is if Gabriel had not released both Scratch and New, then Live Blood would be absolutely essential. The string-drenched chorus of “Wallflower”, along with its perfect harmonies, doesn’t just create goosebumps, it practically blows across the hairs on your arm. The dark synths of “Biko” are replaced with strings and flutes that pop like flames from a nearby fireplace. Gabriel’s vocals on the Lou Reed cover, “The Power of the Heart”, are just as powerful as they are on Scratch My Back.
However, all of these compliments can be heaped upon either Scratch or New. You can cut and paste these comments into either one of those album reviews and they would not ring false. More often than not, it’s as though the only production on the record consisted of infusing audience applause and Gabriel anecdotes. The producers and Gabriel have created a near-replica that needs to be heard in person, rather than heard once more on record (it should be noted a Live Blood DVD has been released, and that can be recommended)....full text
IndependentAfter the Scratch My Back and New Blood albums of orchestrated re-imaginings
of his and others' songs, and last year's New Blood Live in London DVD,
another two-hour, two-CD live set based on the same material may be a
case of Peter Gabriel returning to this well once too often.
There are successes here – "The Boy in the Bubble" turned into a modern elegy; "San Jacinto" rendered as an evocative stippling of piano, marimba and woodwind; the orchestral turmoil of "The Rhythm of the Heat" – but the overall effect can be gruelling. At best, the new arrangements open up dark alleyways of meaning, but save for "The Book of Love", where Gabriel's sincerity washes away the irony to leave the song more straightforwardly affectionate, the new meanings are rarely optimistic....full text
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