Review: Where was the ‘real Peter Gabriel’ during San Francisco concert?

Peter Gabriel draws large crowd to Chase Center

The star of the Peter Gabriel show wanted to be clear right away:

Peter Gabriel was not present.

Instead, he/it informed us that we were viewing an avatar — one that wasn’t nearly as visually impressive as the real thing.

“My avatar is 20 years older, 20 pounds heavier, and completely bald,” said the alleged avatar. “The real Peter Gabriel is lying horizontal on a Caribbean beach and totally indistinguishable from a Greek god.”

If that’s the case, Bay Area fans should consider themselves lucky that the “real Peter Gabriel” didn’t show up to Chase Center in San Francisco on Wednesday night, because the show they got was nothing short of spectacular.

Given the advances in AI and how virtual reality has already been used in the “live” entertainment industry, it’s probably best at this point in the story that I clarify that Gabriel was joking and was, in fact, present, in the flesh, at Chase.

He had to be the one. Because, after 55 years, what other classic rock star is still putting on such widely entertaining and challenging shows?

Gabriel took the stage at 8:05 p.m., just 5 minutes after the advertised start time, to perform his first Bay Area show since a co-headlining date with Sting at the SAP Center in San Jose in 2016. He’d put on a fantastic two-set show with 22 songs, evenly split between new and old material.

The 11 songs from his upcoming release, “i/o,” stood tall alongside the classics, demonstrating that the 73-year-old Englishman is as inspired and creative as ever. Even though the older material brought back waves of nostalgia for fans, Gabriel and his fantastic nine-piece band managed to revitalize these older tunes in ways that felt true to the original recordings.

Although Gabriel took the stage alone at first and delivered the avatar bit, he was soon joined by bassist Tony Levin.

“We go back to the days of taking our dinosaurs out for a walk and when we had full heads of hair,” Gabriel said as he introduced his longtime collaborator.

Soon after, the rest of the band joined in, and they gathered around a campfire — complete with a full moon glowing on the video screen in back — for a low-key yet hypnotic opening segment that began with “Washing of the Water” (from 1992’s “Us”) and ended with “Growing Up” (from 2002’s “Up”).

As “Growing Up” came to a close, the 10 musicians stood up and waded right into the new material, delivering three consecutive “i/o” cuts — “Panopticom,” “Four Kinds of Horses,” and the title cut — which only served to fuel fan anticipation surrounding the eventual release of Gabriel’s 10th solo studio album.

The large crowd in attendance, which had been attentive but fairly subdued for the first half of the concert (corresponding to the vibe of the music), finally let loose when Gabriel and company launched into the evening’s first real hit — a powerful version of the “Us” single “Digging in the Dirt.”

Gabriel then quickly returned to the new material, delivering the two most memorable “i/o” cuts of the night: a stunningly beautiful rendition of “Playing for Time” followed by a joyous run through “Olive Tree.” The show’s star ended the first set in a fan-friendly manner, with everyone on their feet and dancing along to a raucous rendition of “Sledgehammer.”

Following a brief intermission, the band began the second set with another “Up” song, “Darkness,” before returning to “i/o” territory for two more winners, “Love Can Heal” and “Road to Joy.”

A version of the moving, inspirational ballad “Don’t Give Up” — with band member Ayanna Witter-Johnson elegantly handling the Kate Bush lines — really struck a chord with the audience members, some of whom sang along with the type of hushed restraint that isn’t often seen at a major rock show.

Gabriel’s voice was in top form all night, towering over what many of his contemporaries had to offer after decades on the road. And his band matched him for two sets, with each of the nine musicians getting a chance to shine in front of the large audience.

They were able to deliver versions of classics like “Big Time” and “Red Rain” that sounded every bit as strong as what Gabriel was dishing out to fans back in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

It was a memorable evening for whoever was onstage at Chase Center. Let’s hope this avatar/”the real Peter Gabriel” doesn’t wait another seven years before performing in the Bay Area.



  1. “Washing of the Water”
  2. “Growing Up”
  3. “Panopticom”
  4. “Four Kinds of Horses”
  5. “i/o”
  6. “Digging in the Dirt”
  7. “Playing for Time”
  8. “Olive Tree”
  9. “This Is Home”
  10. “Sledgehammer” Set 2
  11. “Darkness”
  12. “Love Can Heal”
  13. “Road to Joy”
  14. “Don’t Give Up”
  15. “The Court”
  16. “Red Rain”
  17. “And Still”
  18. “Big Time”
  19. “Live and Let Live”
  20. “Solsbury Hill” Encore
  21. “In Your Eyes” Encore 2
  22. “Biko”

The tour of Peter Gabriel continues on October 13 at the Kia Forum in Los Angeles.

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