Peter Gabriel - lead vocals, keyboards; David Sancious - keyboards, vocals; Darryl Jones - bass; David Rhodes - guitar, vocals; Manu Katche - drums, percussion; Guest: Tracy Chapman - vocals; Guest: Youssou N'Dour - vocals, percussion; Guest: Branford Marsalis - sax; Guest: unknown percussionists on "In Your Eyes" and "Biko"
Following his 1975 departure from Genesis and after a period of rest and creative rejuvenation, Peter Gabriel returned with his compelling first solo album in 1977. In the two-year interim, Gabriel had matured as both an artist and a songwriter. His new music was scaled down considerably and gone were the rhetorical and prog-rock musical flourishes that characterized Genesis. Over the course of the next decade, Gabriel would become increasingly adventurous and introspective, creating music on his own terms. He began working with some of the most talented and esoteric musicians of the era, including King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp (who was then pursuing his own solo and session work career) and the extraordinarily talented bass player, Tony Levin, a veteran of the New York studio session scene. Gabriel's new music could be explosively powerful one minute and psychologically introspective the next, taking listeners on a dark, brooding journey through the bleak recesses of his mind.
At the dawn of the 1980s, Gabriel helped to found an organization called WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) and over the course of the next several years embarked on a series of international festivals that celebrated traditional and modern music, arts and dance on a global scale. This was an initial step that led Gabriel into the world of social and political activism. He became actively involved with Amnesty International, a non-overnmental organization based in London that conducted research and generated action toward preventing and ending abuse of human rights. Gabriel played a prominent role in supporting Amnesty International and appeared on the organization's A Conspiracy of Hope Tour in 1986.
That same year Gabriel released his album So which would become a monumental hit worldwide, bringing him popularity on a scale like he had never experienced before, particularly in the United States. The album generated three hits including "Sledgehammer," which sailed straight to #1 in America. The album won Gabriel his first Grammy. The videos created to promote the album confirmed him as a leader in video production as well. The video for "Sledgehammer" would garner many awards, including becoming #1 in 'Rolling Stones' top 100 videos of all time and becoming MTV's most played video of all time. This video set a new standard for art in the music video industry and a follow-up for the song "Big Time" broke additional new ground for its animation and special effects.
Still sailing on the monumental popularity of the So album, Gabriel joined Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Tracy Chapman, and Youssou N'dour on Amnesty International's 1988 Human Rights Now! Tour. This global tour presented 20 benefit concerts over the course of six weeks in an effort to increase awareness of Amnesty International and to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The final concert of the tour was presented at River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aries, Argentina, which was filmed and recorded, with highlights being aired on HBO and MTV and broadcasted on Westwood One radio and the King Biscuit Flower Hour.
Here the complete unedited Peter Gabriel set is presented, recorded at the final concert of the Human Rights Now Tour in Buenos Aries on October 15, 1988. Focusing heavily on the material from the So album, but also featuring four choice selections from his earlier solo albums, this set captures Gabriel at the peak of popularity. He is backed by a truly phenomenal band, featuring a core unit of David Sancious on keyboards, Darryl Jones on bass, David Rhodes on guitar, and Manu Katche on drums. Several percussionists, instrumentalists and vocalists augment this core lineup including saxman Branford Marsalis, and both Tracy Chapman and Youssou N'Dour lend their voices to this set.
Appropriately enough, Gabriel's set begins with the first track from his So album, the emotionally charged "Red Rain." Inspired by a recurring dream of swimming in a sea of red water, with lyrics vividly depicting dream imagery and a sense of vulnerability, this song is one of several compositions focused on the story of Mozo, a wandering stranger who appears in several of Gabriel's songs.
The set continues with three key songs from his earlier solo albums, beginning with the thought provoking critique of nationalism and war, "Games Without Frontiers," a hit from his third self-titled solo album in 1980 (AKA the Melt album). This is followed by an engaging performance of "Shock the Monkey" from his 1982 album, Security. Third in this exploration of older material is a dramatic reading of "No Self Control," one of Gabriel's darkest songs, where he examines greed, lust, and two topics that fueled his first several albums, mental instability and the decay of the psyche. Throughout these challenging performances, Gabriel's band is superb, particularly Jones and Katche—a dynamic and technically brilliant rhythm section.
With the exception of the set closer, the remainder of the set explores additional material from the So album, which not surprisingly receives the strongest reactions from the South American audience. On "Don't Give Up," a ballad addressing the devastation of unemployment, Tracy Chapman takes on the parts originally recorded by Kate Bush on the album recording. This is an inspired performance, with the natural vibrato of Chapman's emotionally charged voice greatly adding to the impact of the song. Next up is the moment many in the audience had been waiting for and with the crowd still roaring its approval, Gabriel's band begins a gradual vamp that leads into the countdown for "Sledgehammer." Gabriel's most perfectly realized fusion of Motown and world music influences, this song is one of the finest examples of this rhythm section in full flight, and has David Sancious' keyboards taking on the role of the horn section, augmented by Branford Marsallis, who joins in on sax. It's a knockout performance that is met with another monumental roar. A highly extended reading of Gabriel and Youssou N'Dour's collaboration, "In Your Eyes," is next. This includes a monologue about human rights and band introductions as they lead into the song proper. Youssou N'Dour and several percussionists join Gabriel onstage and together they explore this emotionally turbulent number for well over 10 minutes, engaging the entire audience to join in.
Another extended collaboration with the audience follows as Gabriel returns to his third solo album for the final number of the set, the politically charged "Biko." One of Gabriel's most penetrating and thought-provoking songs, "Biko" openly addressed the effects of apartheid, the first pop song to ever do so. This song was written about Steven Biko, a noted black South African anti-apartheid activist, who had been imprisoned by the South African police a decade earlier. Following interrogations, during which he sustained serious injuries, Biko was transferred to another prison, where he died shortly afterwards. Once again, the audience joins in to dramatic effect. When Gabriel and the musicians eventually exit the stage, the audience remains singing, shifting the power of the music to the collective voices of the audience, which was essentially the point of this remarkable tour.