I missed a little of the Blind Boys of Alabama, but they were incredible – gospel vocals with a soul backbeat. For their last number, they extended “If I Had a Hammer” and turned the Fleet Center into a revival tent. Very shortly after they left the stage (circular, in the middle of the arena), Peter Gabriel came on and introduced the “amazing” Hukwe Zawose, a Tanzanian duo that won the crowd over with not much more than a few traditional instruments, deeply elemental singing, and a lot of heart. Thumb pianos never sounded so cool.
At 9, Gabriel came on and played (somewhat to my surprise) a mix of old and new stuff which leaned pretty strongly to the new. He led off with “Here Comes the Flood,” which was playing in my head when those heavy rains came in March 2001. There's just something about the weary rasp in his voice that commands credibility.
It's getting late, so I won't attempt to describe all the permutations of the stage that unfolded during the show, but I will tell you that Peter performed various songs while:
- Walking upside down.
- Rolling/walking inside an enormous, inflatable ball, which he deftly controlled around the stage. Of it he said, “When my daughter was young, her hamster had something like that. Now I definitely believe in karma.”
- Riding a bike around the stage
This was also one of the most technically accomplished rock shows I've ever seen, too. Somehow they managed to pull off a show in the round with lots of “set changes” on a rotating stage, while the overhead part of the set kept changing as well. And the sound was loud and clear without giving me ringing in the ears.
All it all, it was a real good time, even Peter Gabriel is not exactly identified with good times himself.