Peter Gabriel and the New Blood Orchestra - Hop Farm 2012 Review
'An orchestral trick in an old tale'
John Bownas - 30 June 2012
Peter Gabriel and the New Blood Orchestra was, on
paper at least, a sound choice to present as a headliner at a festival whose audience is notoriously of an 'earlier' generation.
But Gabriel's established place as one of the godfathers of the accessibly avante-garde means that his shows will always aim to challenge, and whilst that works well for dedicated audiences, the mixed-bag of tastes at an event like this makes it a tougher proposition to please the majority.
A relatively sparse main stage crowd - despite the perhaps surprisingly pleasant and mild evening - would seem to prove that not too many people had been lured to this Kentish farm specifically by the promise of high-brow progressive pop.
Although it has to be said that the opening number, a cover of Bowie's 'Heroes', and a version of Arcade Fire's 'My Body is a Cage' do give the first part of the set an interest factor that seems to grab people's attention more so than some of Gabriel's own, but less well-known songs.
Of course the visually spectacular nature of the New Blood Orchestra surrounded by multiple projection screens does hold the eye, even if Gabriel's plundering of his back catalogue does leave some chunks of the crowd talking amongst themselves from time to time.
'San Jacinto' for instance, is introduced well, as Gabriel tells the story of a Mid-West American hotel porter and his trial by poisonous snake. But despite the personal touch and the strength lent to the track by the orchestral arrangements of John Metcalf, there is a growing mood of people wanting to hear more familiar tunes.
So it's only perhaps with the opening bars of 'Digging in the Dirt' that a sizeable number of the audience become finally and fully engaged.
Which isn't any reflection on what has been, in fairness, a handsomely polished and flawlessly executed exercise in blending sound and vision into one seamlessly packaged show.
'Red Rain', 'Solsbury Hill' and 'Biko' do the trick to conclude the night, and as Gabriel announces that he had played to the end of his allotted time, congratulates the massed talent of his fellow musicians and departs the stage, there is an overall sense of satisfaction amongst the crowd who clear the arena in preparation for what tomorrow may bring.
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