Peter Gabriel’s I/O North American Tour at TD Garden, Boston – September 14th, 2023

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For Peter Gabriel fans, the wait of seven years felt like an eternity. But as the English rock legend took the stage at Boston’s TD Garden on September 14th, it was clear that every second of anticipation had been worth it. This, his first tour in nearly a decade, is not just a return but an enthralling reminder of Gabriel’s unwavering power to connect with audiences both through his past classics and forthcoming numbers from his “I/O” album.

Covering 25 cities across North America, this leg of the I/O tour brought with it the familiar faces of long-time bandmates: bass virtuoso Tony Levin, the impeccable drummer Manu Katche, and the ever-versatile guitarist David Rhodes. Each with a history of over 35 years accompanying Gabriel, their chemistry is the kind that can only be curated over decades of camaraderie. Complementing these veterans are the newer members – cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson, bass keyboardist Don-E, multi-instrumentalist Richard Evans, Josh Shpak on trumpet, french horn, keys, vocals and the entrancing Marina Moore. This blend of old and new proved to be a masterstroke, creating a sound that was at once nostalgic and refreshingly contemporary.

Opening with the ethereal “Washing of the Water,” Gabriel’s voice permeated the hall, resonating with an emotional depth that hushed the audience into a trance. The tranquil start soon segued into a journey that encompassed his vast and varied discography, including sneak peeks from his eagerly awaited album “I/O.” Among these, “Love can heal,” “The Court,” and “Road to Joy” showcased Gabriel’s enduring knack for innovative soundscapes, with each track hinting at the masterpiece that the full album promises to be.

As the iconic beats of “Sledgehammer” filled the air, the energy in the room electrified. Fan-favorites like “Solsbury Hill” and “In Your Eyes” were greeted with sing-alongs so loud they rivaled the man himself. But it was the performances of “Red Rain,” a song that holds a unique place in the hearts of Gabriel enthusiasts, and the new number “Road to Joy” that truly stole the show. The latter featured the delightful ‘battle of the basses’ with Don-E’s bass keyboard going head to head with Levin’s Chapman Stick. It was an audacious blend of modern and traditional, reminding everyone of Gabriel’s persistent spirit of experimentation.

Another standout was “Don’t Give Up,” a song that has consistently provided solace to countless listeners over the years. Ayanna Witter-Johnson’s rendition of Kate Bush’s part was nothing short of breathtaking. As she harmonized with Gabriel, her voice soaring and dipping in tandem with the emotional ebbs and flows of the song, it felt as if time stood still. Witter-Johnson, with her prowess on the cello, added layers of depth and brought an unparalleled richness to the music.

The finale, however, was reserved for Gabriel’s human rights anthem, “Biko.” It wasn’t just a song, but a call to action, a poignant reminder of the struggle and sacrifice of Stephen Biko in the face of South African apartheid. As the last haunting notes played out, one could feel the weight of history, of Gabriel’s commitment to social justice, and the indelible mark his music has left on global activism. For many in the audience, it was a trip down memory lane, back to a time when music was the clarion call for change.

Peter Gabriel’s concert at the TD Garden wasn’t just a musical event, but an emotional journey. From the thrill of hearing classics to the curiosity of the new, it was a night of rediscovery. Rediscovery of Gabriel’s genius, of the power of music to heal, inspire, and ignite change. As the crowd left, there was an overwhelming sentiment shared by many: Peter Gabriel is back, and he’s as phenomenal as ever. The world awaits the release of “I/O” later this year with bated breath. It promises not only the magic of music but also the soulful storytelling that has been the hallmark of Gabriel’s illustrious career.

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