ROCK / Oh, and the songs were good, too: Joseph Gallivan on Peter Gabriel's mobile performance at Earls Court

It wasn't enough to come away from the latest Peter Gabriel theatre-meets-rock extravaganza whistling the set - real men were quoting the statistics. 'Apparently he used five kilometres of cable,' said a young man to his date as they left the arena. His memory served him well. The enduring image of this wonderful show came in the opening seconds. Gabriel was revealed in a Genesis-era red telephone box, singing the opening track of his recent US album, 'Come Talk to Me'; he then walked agonisingly slowly down the 20m runway, stretching the black wire behind him. The elfin figure towards whom he strode stood hunched in the dark on the circular 'other' stage. A gasp of delight went up with the spotlights as it was revealed to be Sinead O'Connor: - Walkman on as usual, barefoot and elegant. Gabriel's cultured, airy tones were perfectly complemented by her angelic caterwaul. In less than two minutes the drome had been catapulted into an intense emotional state.

The clearest point Robert Lepage makes with his set - a square stage (the 'masculine') joined by a long conveyor belt to a round stage (the 'feminine') - is that people should communicate. It must be money for old rope for the French Canadian theatre and opera director, who did the muddy A Midsummer Night's Dream at the National. Still, if the symbolism was obscure, you could always treat it like a Michael Jackson concert and enjoy the technological gimmickry. Gabriel didn't have a jet pack, but he did seem to take off for a moment during the obligatory Brooding Silhouette sequence. He punted 'Across the River' by way of the conveyor belt to perform 'Shaking the Tree' (large tree pops up), followed by 'Blood of Eden', for which he moped about in a melancholy paradise with the returned O'Connor.

Fortunately, whatever plot development there was supposed to be was soon lost, and one could concentrate on the songs as individual pieces of music. Gabriel held the focus well. He was a pleasure to watch, with his black clothes and with his rather thespian gait, but his voice was the real delight. Even after doing his strange hopping dance with the guitarists, he still had breath enough to draw his notes out, phrase them accurately and indulge his wide melodic range. Coupled with his big ideas, he gives the eerie impression of singing not from the chest, or even from the nose, but from the brain itself.

As rock-boffins go, Gabriel's work is a lot more approachable than, say, Brian Eno's. There is a cool steadiness to his music, even the funky 'Sledgehammer' and the U2 pomp of 'Secret World', in which the superb David Rhodes, veteran of seven Gabriel albums, made the guitar attack look effortless. Gabriel likes to play with technology, but most of the songs on US are about 'relationships'. At one point during the shuttling between the two stages (the struggle to communicate, remember), he disappeared, leaving his image on the huge screen. He reappeared wearing a gadget you might find in an Innovations catalogue: a video camera strapped to his head, pointing back at his face. The idea (Lepage's) was to make palpable the concept of self-scrutiny, about which he was singing in his bloke-in-therapy song 'Digging in the Dirt'. In reality, all you got were shots of his fillings; the overall effect was to make him look like the big-nosed one in The Who.

Further trickery involved the band vanishing into a bottomless flight case. They nicest touch came when they reappeared, having picked up the support artists Papa Wemba and Ayub Ogada along the way, for an encore of 'Biko' from under the large dome that had descended on to the round stage. From the first pod-like phone box to the final flying saucer, it was reassuring to know that the grand tradition of live rock 'n' roll is safe in someone's hands.

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones