It's all about the song. Just as with last year's O2 Arena shows where Gabriel redrew the works of Lou Reed, Radiohead and Elbow using the full-colour palette of a large orchestra, his latest project New Blood has a similar modus operandi - but this time he applies the orchestral makeover entirely to his own back catalogue.
With accompaniment from the 46-piece New Blood orchestra under the eye of master-arranger John Metcalfe and the baton of Ben Foster, Gabriel's vocals are centre-stage and bare, stripped of the usual rock'n'roll clothing, no loud guitars or booming drums to hide behind. The lyrics take on extra potency and poignancy; few concerts come remotely close to matching the intensity here. Gabriel is the lone sailor to the orchestra's ocean, the massed strings providing calm waters before rising up into dramatic swells. And recasting this classic material in this manner has created a unified whole - a suite, no less - where, as The Guardian observed, "each song whispers its secrets into the next".
Raw and soul-baring yet passionate and often joyous, Gabriel's songs here take new shape and extra meaning, guaranteed to bewitch the Hammersmith Apollo audience and create an extraordinarily intimate and gripping occasion. A night to remember and revisit.
"As Gabriel demonstrated so ably, there are places in the soul that electric guitar, bass and drums, for all their visceral excitement, still can't reach" - LA Times1 March 2011 at 11:03am