It has been over a decade since Peter Gabriel has performed on American Television, the last time he appeared on any program in the US he was backed by a band, a decade later; he is now backed by a 46-piece orchestra. For a special taping of the acclaimed Live on Letterman web series, Gabriel with the New Blood Orchestra performed his catalog which has been reinterpreted for a symphonic album, New Blood, which was released last month.
Walking down the aisles while the orchestra crammed on the famous stage playing the opening notes to “Red Rain,” Gabriel looked relaxed and poised to show off what he has been doing. This is not the first time he has used an orchestra of any kind, on his last tour in support of Scratch My Back, he seemed to respond well to the idea and has now reworked his classics for New Blood. As Gabriel’s raspy voice peaked through the audience, the roar and thunder of the orchestra dazzled the crowd. It is very interesting and almost funny to see an audience mentally programmed to sit and be proper once an orchestra is present on stage. Gabriel would do his best to get the audience off their feet, but the New Blood Orchestra were the catalysts for doing so. At the end of each song a rousing applause and standing ovation would occur to celebrate the fantastic musicians Gabriel has backing him. In between songs Gabriel would talk politics, world issues and the origins of certain songs. Many of Gabriel’s songs are about injustice and people rising up to take powers into their own hands, he paralleled the songs “Darkness,” “Wallflower” and the epic show closer and encore number, “Biko” to the Arab Spring we have all witnessed this past year. Gabriel inspired the crowd to rise up and speak out against injustice and cruel governments. As the audience accepted the invitation to do so, it altered the tone of the show.
In an hour long set that did not include the amount of hits one would think, Gabriel did manage to sneak in “Solsbury Hill” and jokingly said, “here is one you may know” before kicking into the uplifting tune. Like most Live on Letterman experiences, they are truly unique to the viewer and spectator in the audience, in such an intimate setting you see a massive artist at their most vulnerable and they take the eyes on them to new heights, witnessing a legend like Gabriel with an orchestra in a setting like this, was truly a priceless moment.