This Way Up – The So Tour

The success of So made a big impression on the world press. For the first time, Peter had reached superstar status, tantamount to drawing a large target across his chest and standing in the press corps’ line of fire.

As the tour rampaged around the globe, Peter Gabriel became a target for media criticism. For the most part, the press was kind (though a few of them could learn to spell Solsbury). As the ensuing selection of reports shows, most, but by no means all of it, was good…

Visual Showcase

Photo by Pennie Smith

“All of the hype paid off. Peter Gabriel’s two-hour performance Saturday night in front of nearly 12,000 concertgoers at Assembly Hall was just what had been eagerly awaited – a visual showcase of art rock encompassing everything from the rhythm of Motown to the tribal beat of Africa.”

– Steve Park, The Daily Illini, 17 November 1986

Hi-Tech Cultism

“On the commercial front, Gabriel is one of a handful on the modern scene who assumes his listeners are out of diapers, sentient and deserving of something special in return for tickets that were being scalped for as much as $100 a piece.

Last night’s two-hour set featured an ace four-piece international band, enough material from his decade-long, post-Genesis solo career to soothe the most savage breast and lighting that honestly deserves a separate review … But his current tour smacks too much of hi-tech cultism run rampant. Gabriel’s benedictions with arms outstretched to the masses and his leap into the faithful at stage-front while singing ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’ came too close to religion for comfort from so sensitive a star.”

– John Griffin, The Montreal Gazette, 26 November 1986

The Rest Is Up To You

“Once again, Gabriel has scored a first, and just possibly revolutionized concert lighting. Throughout the show, four lanterns – hoisted on long metallic tentacles and wheeled along a railed track – followed him around like a leashed dog … Biko, the final song of the evening, is about the death of the South African activist, Steven Biko, and Gabriel used this occasion for a strong anti-apartheid message.

As he got the crowd to sing along to the one-word chorus, bright lights suddenly filled the Gardens and you could see a sea of arms raised in protest against the South African regime. After asking them to sing, Gabriel turned to the audience and said, ‘Now the rest is up to you …”

– Nick Krewen, The Hamilton Spectator, 27 November 1986

Dazzling Technology


“Peter Gabriel can’t dance. It’s no big deal, and probably a benefit. If the British rock singer-songwriter were able to move his body in time to the polyrhythms with which he has been toying during the last five years and three albums, it’s likely his energies would have been diverted from creating the fascinating theatrics that 17,000 Toronto fans witnessed at Maple Leaf Gardens, Wednesday night … While the singer was surrounded by dazzling technology, he seemed absolutely in control of it. But it’s probably just as well Peter Gabriel can’t dance.”

– Greg Quill, The Toronto Star, 27 November 1986

Care And Creativity

“Since leaving Genesis, Peter Gabriel has eschewed costumes and become a hero of modern music fans largely through collaborations with such cutting-edge artists as Kate Bush, Laurie Anderson and Adrian Belew. These changes haven’t eliminated the theatricality and occasional pomposity for which Gabriel is known so much as they have updated them … No matter how eagerly he’s embraced by a ‘now’ audience, Gabriel’s no more likely to write simple, three-minute pop/thrash ditties, than he’s likely to serve up the bland, formulaic pap in which Genesis now specializes individually and collectively.”

“Tonight’s program consisted mainly of overly long, complex pieces … Obviously a lot of care and attention and creativity went into Gabriel’s show, and it was one of the better arena affairs of the season. But with a little more editing and regard for what songs his fans wanted to hear, it could have been even more. For all his innovation, it seemed at times as if Peter Gabriel was the one with ‘No Self Control’.”

– Barry Gutman, East Coast Rocker, 24 December 1986

Jubilantly Rhythmic Music

“Talk about two cultures clashing. Sitting next to each other in the row in front of me were Paul Simon and jazz man Ornette Coleman. They didn’t seem to recognise each other; they probably didn’t know much about each other’s work. Still, it was a particularly karmic coincidence. On stage in front of them, an English pop star and an extraordinary West African singer – another wholly unlikely duo – were making beautiful, jubilantly rhythmic music, proving indeed that cultural appropriation works both ways.”

– David Fricke, Melody Maker, 13 December 1986

Technical Wizardry

“Anyone who went to see Peter Gabriel in Glasgow on the strength of his recent album, ‘So’, must have come away disappointed. His technical wizardry and fine touches in the studio just can’t be reproduced on stage and the massive Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre hall is the worst place to try it … It was really a case of ‘forget about the music and let’s get on with the show’, and I’d rather have watched some of his innovative videos for an hour and a half.

The star of the night for me was his support act, Youssou N’Dour from Senegal. His blend of African and Western styles produces a sound which takes a bit of listening to, but given the chance, this man could do for African music what Bob Marley did for reggae.”

– Kenny Blair, The Sunday Post, 28 June 1987

Gabriel’s Triumph

“Ignoring the mode of arena concert staging that depends on simple, grand gestures and a continuous homogeneous beat, Gabriel and his four-piece band wove a dense and complex pattern of climax and diminuendo, leavened by humour and the odd bout of amateur dramatics and enhanced by the stark, jagged lighting design that left much of the austere set either in darkness or bathed in ghastly purples and greens, while rippling shafts of white sliced across the players … But as Youssou N’Dour, the singer from Dakar, appeared on stage to join in rousing encores of ‘In Your Eyes’ and ‘Biko’, Gabriel’s triumph was complete, as even the die-hard rock ‘n’ rollers joined in with the swaying African chants that echoed proudly round the hall.”

– David Sinclair

The Man Must Be Mad

“PG’s finest moments came with the haunting and heartful ‘Mercy Street’ and ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’, in which he back-flipped into the crowd and allowed himself to be carried supine over a sea of hands. Although he lost his jacket in the process, he emerged unscathed from his astonishing piece of theatre – the man must be mad – and kept the arena on its feet for the inevitable ‘Sledgehammer’ and a memorably emotional ‘Biko’.”

Len Brown, New Musical Express, 4 July 1987

“… before you start thinking that a Peter Gabriel concert is one long yawn, let’s set the record straight. The reason for this apparent lack of crowd enthusiasm, at least for the first hour, is that the audience don’t have to do anything, such is the overwhelming physical energy of the remarkable Mr Gabriel, who rushes about the stage in such a hurry that he keeps missing words because he’s out of breath. Then, suddenly, he starts singing ‘Solsbury Hill’ and everyone goes completely bonkers, even though most of them are somewhat elderly types who probably used to go and see Peter Gabriel when he was still the singer in Genesis and wore a lawnmower on his head.”

– Simon Poulter, Smash Hits, 15-28 July 1987

An Anthem For The World

“At 14 quid a ticket, an audience with the Archangel Gabriel doesn’t come cheap. So this was definitely the faithful gathered here tonight, and yet they only acted like it after half an hour or so, when the opening bars of ‘Salisbury Hill’ (sic) acted like a cattle prod on the behinds of the thousands and they leapt to their feet. I believe Gabriel deserves it, too. He seems like a man who would never compromise his art for anything, the sort who would exile himself to a desert island rather than be forced in a direction not of his choosing … The upshot of it all is, I’d probably pay 14 quid just to see him perform ‘In Your Eyes’ one more time, with the perfect voice of Youssou N’Dour cutting through the air like a laser beam.

As the last cries of ‘Biko’ rang out, an anthem for the world, Gabriel said, ‘The rest is up to you’, and left the singing to the people. He’s worth his weight in gold.”

– Neil Perry, Sounds, 14 September 1987

Song And Dance

“From up here on the roof, Peter Gabriel looks a bit of a prat leaping around on all fours pretending to be a monkey. The strange headband doesn’t help, making him appear a cross between Pat Cash and Fish. Nasty business. That’s the trouble with performance art … everything’s such a song and dance. And Peter’s dancing makes Bryan Ferry look like Fred Astaire … But precious and ponderous as he may be, he can certainly pull a good trick, singing ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’ and falling like a stone backwards off the stage to be caught by the audience. The Christ Almighty symbolism in all this is a bit iffy, but his faith in the audience to initially catch him and then pass him round among themselves without poking him too painfully is touching. He’s eventually returned to the stage (having passed halfway along Earls Court Road) unhurt but minus his jacket and, I shouldn’t wonder, his wallet and his virginity, too.”

– Colin Irwin, Melody Maker, 4 July 1987

Joyfull Abandon

“It’s hard to imagine a better show than the one Gabriel performed at Madison Square Gardens last December, but Friday’s concert was. On stage, Gabriel … appeared more at ease and self-assured. There was a fluidity and naturalness to some moves that previously seemed rigid and stylized … And the four members of his back-up band, who last time seemed to be interested – but excellent – musical bystanders, became integral parts of the proceedings, dancing and jumping about the stage with joyful abandon.”

– Barbara Jaeger, The Record, 20 July 1987

Magician Des Emotions

“Peter Gabriel est un magicien des emotions. Sa voix et le soin qu’il prend pour faire embarquer totalement les spectateurs dans l’atmosphere de ses chansons le classent dans une categorie a part … Quand le finalement interprete son plus grand success, ‘Sledgehammer’, Peter Gabriel a litteralement souleve le Forum.”

– Martin Smith, Le Journal de Montreal, 26 November 1996