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Shut Up And Play The New Stuff

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 18: Peter Gabriel performs at Madison Square Garden on September 18, 2023 in New York City.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images|

This is from Peter Gabriel’s show Madison Square Garden two nights later. Close enough to use it for this story.

I took my dad to see Peter Gabriel last Saturday. Well, no, that’s not right, as my dad paid for the tickets. But he was looking for someone to go see Peter Gabriel with, and I was more than willing to go. I listened to my parents’ copy of So when I was a kid, and in my teens I put “In Your Eyes” on more than one mixtape made for a girl.

I wanted to hang with my dad, but I also trusted him that any show he wanted to go to would be pretty good. He’s seen everyone from Black Sabbath in Wildwood to Miles Davis in Philadelphia. His father didn’t want him to go to that second show, at the Electric Factory, because it was a “den of iniquity.” (My dad was 19 for that one.) Also, we seem to have pretty good luck going to shows together. We knew we’d enjoy Radiohead when we saw them a few years ago, but we also thoroughly enjoyed the Roy Orbison hologram when we saw it at a casino. Julian Frampton opened.

I’ve always appreciated my dad’s open-mindedness toward music. Walking into the Sixers’ arena for the show, he told me that he’d recently been listening to French rock music on satellite radio. When I was a kid he liked Digital Underground after seeing the music video for “The Humpty Dance.” He got into Radiohead when I told him to watch them on SNL in 2000. He’s taking an art class now at the senior center, and as he’s by far the youngest, hippest one there he’s in charge of the music. He told me that he put on Kid A the other day. They made him turn it off after three songs. Man, and here I’d hoped “The National Anthem” was a pretty universal tune.

I know some Peter Gabriel songs, all singles I suppose, and I like all of them. I also appreciated that Gabriel tried to make art, with cool music videos in the 1980s. (“Sledgehammer“ is the most-played music video in the history of MTV, a record that will obviously never be passed considering the station only shows Ridiculousness now.) I do think there are alternate-universe versions of me into Gabriel. There are definitely versions, maybe ones just five years older, that are really into prog rock—a genre Gabriel practically invented in early versions of Genesis. (Don’t worry. Earth-616 Dan is not a prog rock guy. Depressingly, I’m more of a synthwave guy.)

I listened to So and Us in the days before the show to prepare, and wondered what he’d play at this concert. I learned from my dad that Gabriel had a new album out, i/o. I looked that up before the show, too, and learned that while it was not actually out yet, Gabriel had been releasing a new single every full moon since January. My eyes could not have rolled farther into the back of my head. I looked up the setlist and learned that the show was mostly stuff from this album, his first in 20 years. I was terrified about having to hear this new stuff, even if I did appreciate how every new song had an accompanying work from a visual artist.

I felt stupid about all that leaving the show. The new stuff ruled. Peter Gabriel, at 73 years old, can still write a darn good pop song. I particularly liked “Panopticom” and “Love Can Heal,” but there were others, too: “Playing For Time” was great. My dad particularly liked “And Still,” which opened with a dedication to his late mother. It was a beautiful performance.

I knew I was going to like the show, whatever the new songs sounded like; I got to hang out with my dad, we got to listen to some music, I heard his hilarious story about old people being baffled by Kid A. What I did not expect was to enjoy all this new Peter Gabriel music! My dad and I were so enthused coming out. Gabriel put on a good show, and I loved hearing “Big Time” and some of his other hits live. But, man. He shut up and played the new crap and it really worked out.

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