I have an indelible memory of being at the back of the stalls at the Liverpool Empire in 1983 as Peter Gabriel was passed around the audience during I Have The Touch. I know I never touched the great man but for the first time in my memory I remember being completely enveloped by an experience that was so overwhelming so all encompassing and fulfilling I was convinced that I never had to go to another gig ever again. At 18 I had in my mind now experienced everything in that 6 or 7 minutes, this was further confirmed as he launched into Not One Of Us and we were only three songs in at this point.
The first four Peter Gabriel albums at this time for me and one group of friends was the future of music. Of course for another group of friends it was Twisted Sister and Under the Blade that was the promised land and for the crossover stoner group it was Choose Your Masques by Hawkwind that was the absolute pinnacle of music. Somehow I managed to move safely between all these groups.
Funnily enough in 1983 all three produced concerts that have stuck in my mind, whether it was Dee Snider snarling at us as we got his signature outside the Royal Court, Gabriel making contact with the audience or Nik Turner and the Hawks almost causing a riot at the Theater Royal In St. Helens as the stage almost collapsed when the audience got real close.
It is however those four Gabriel albums that stick with me as an unsurpassed body of work, yes I know he went on to bigger and better shows and duets and sold more albums but the immediacy of those early 80’s shows and the songs on those first four albums cannot be beat. From Solsbury Hill to Shock the Monkey he covered more ground than most musicians of his time, even managing andIt’s a Knockout reference in a chart song and the creepiest song ever in Intruder which also had one of the most intimidating drums patterns.
He also had probably the greatest touring band of all time behind him. Of course this allowed him to crown the whole thing with one of the greatest live albums with Plays Live a document to a great tour, and this after a year when he had to get bailed out by his old band.
This was the last time I got to see Gabriel, apart from one brief Mandela appearance, so maybe it was just I now never had to see another Gabriel show. Now to be honest I also have an indelible memory of Nik Turner painted green on roller skates being carried to the stage in a coffin and the poor concession lady selling ice cream to the freaks before the Hawkwind show.