Written by Mellow Williams
Photos by Joe Guzman
Peter Gabriel’s highly anticipated concert in Dallas, Texas in 2023 proved to be an extraordinary and sensational experience, captivating concert-goers and leaving an indelible mark. After a twelve-year hiatus, Gabriel’s triumphant return to the North Texas stage in an unconventional way for an enchanting night filled with music, storytelling, and profound insights.
A Stage Set for a Timeless Experience
The stage design for the concert was nothing short of captivating, a result of the collaborative genius between Gabriel and renowned Dutch artist and designer Maarten Baas. Drawing inspiration from Baas’s iconic ‘Schiphol Clock’, instead the i/o version featured a man in an orange jumpsuit that matched the ones worn by the crew. Nonetheless, it was a giant clock that served as a symbolic confrontation with time, reminding us of its dominance in our lives. This grand display was turned on the moment doors opened until the show started. Technically, making it an hour-long intro.
I anticipated the typical show opening – loud bass, strobing lights, and (sometimes) an overall feeling of near-chaos. However, from the moment he walked onto the stage, I realized that it was his entrance- Just walking onto the stage. Gabriel had an effortless grace about him. It was as if he was strolling into a delightful conversation with old friends.
His storytelling had an informative yet mellow tone that drew me in and kept me captivated. His tales of the universe’s secrets and shooting stars made me feel like I was embarking on an enchanting expedition. My interest peaked more after he passionately described the Schiphol clock and how time is the “grand master” that has a hold on all of us. Five minutes in, it became obvious that this was not a normal show, but a truly unique experience.
Gabriel smoothly shifts from discussing profound ideas to music as his longtime companion, bassist Tony Levin, joins him at center stage around a welcoming bonfire.
They kick off the evening with a grounded performance of “Washing of the Water.” The rest of the band members come together, forming an intimate circle reminiscent of a campfire gathering, and the song gradually builds to an exhilarating, stripped-down climax. Amidst this circle of exceptionally talented musicians, Gabriel introduces each individual with respect.
There are the remarkable long-time companions who’ve stood by his side through countless tours and albums for over four decades: Levin on bass, David Rhodes on guitars, Manu Katché on drums, and Richard Evans on guitar and flute. Additionally, there are the incredibly skilled newcomers: Ayanna Witter-Johnson (cello, piano, vocals), Marina Moore (violin, viola, vocals), Don E. (keyboards), and Josh Shpak (trumpet, French horn, keys, vocals).
The band then offers an intimate rendition of “Growing Up” from the album “Up” before transitioning from the cozy campfire setting to the expansive three-tiered stage, providing the audience with an optimal view of each of the nine musicians.
Provocative Insights into the Future
Throughout the concert, Gabriel masterfully blended his extensive music catalog with new material from his latest album, ‘i/o’.
The first of his new songs performed, titled “Panopticon,” is undoubtedly a new classic. The melody is hypnotic, and the chorus is uplifting, leaving listeners with no doubt that the band members, Levin, Rhodes, and Katché, are musical geniuses.
Preceding the performance, Gabriel delved into the potential risks of Artificial Intelligence and the power that it holds. Ensuring that the technology is harnessed for good and contributes towards communication, education, healthcare, and security is crucial to its widespread adoption.
The next song, “Olive Tree,” hints at mind reading and elaborates on an MRI technology that converts brainwaves into videos through an artificial intelligence algorithm.
Gabriel’s performance fuses music, storytelling, and intellectual exploration, creating a memorable concert experience for all.
A Dance with Nostalgia
Amidst the ending of the first set, the familiar tunes of Gabriel’s major hit, “Sledgehammer“, transported the audience out of their seats and back in time, while the space filled with the vibrant energy of the 1980s. Transforming the American Airlines Center into a vivacious dance club.
After a 15-minute intermission, The Second Act commenced (personally, bringing some of my favorite vocal and visual moments of the show). Gabriel carried on behind sheer curtains with striking animations projected onto them as he performed the gloomy track “Darkness”. The stage remained mostly the same for “Love Can Heal”, as he used a wand to draw hearts and EKG lines from behind the curtain.
While Kate Bush was nowhere around, the 1986 ‘SO’ single that preceded ‘Sledgehammer’, ‘Don’t Give Up’ was in AMAZING hands. Ayanna Witter-Johnson stepped to the center stage to aid Peter Gabriel in a beautiful rendition. The area cheered and applauded each time Ayanna sang during the number.
A Grand Finale to Remember
As the show neared its conclusion, more and more life started to fill the arena, as more familiar songs played as auditory dopamine. The last songs from the new album ‘I/O’ were: ‘The Court’, ‘So Much’, and ‘Live and Let Live’. Apart from that, it was all classic hits such as ‘Red Rain’, and ‘Big Time.
The grand finale of the concert was nothing short of spectacular, as Gabriel delivered one captivating performance after another. From his debut solo single, ‘Solsbury Hill’, to the rousing encores of ‘The Tower That Ate People’, ‘In Your Eyes’, and an emotionally charged rendition of ‘Biko’, each moment was a jubilant celebration of music, life, and the unstoppable passage of time.
In conclusion, Peter Gabriel’s 2023 Dallas Concert was an unforgettable moment that transcended the boundaries of time and filled the hearts of concert-goers with pure elation. Through his remarkable talent, captivating stage design, and thought-provoking insights, Gabriel created a concert that will be cherished for years to come. It was more than just a musical event; it was a transformative journey that elevated, enlivened, and enriched the souls of all who had the pleasure of attending.
What made Peter Gabriel’s 2023 tour at Dallas special?
- Peter Gabriel’s 2023 tour at Dallas marked his first North Texas stage appearance in twelve years, making it a special occasion for the audience.
Who collaborated with Peter Gabriel for the stage design?
- Dutch artist/designer Maarten Baas collaborated with Peter Gabriel for the stage design, featuring a giant clock reminiscent of Baas’s ‘Schiphol Clock’.
What insights did Gabriel share during the concert?
- Gabriel shared insights about the potential of Artificial Intelligence and forthcoming MRI technology that could convert brainwaves into video.
What was the highlight of the nostalgic moments at the concert?
- The performance of “Sledgehammer”, Gabriel’s major hit, was a key nostalgic moment at the concert, taking the audience back to 1986.