Thursday, June 21, 2007

Flood Of Eden

Some might say, you attend an open-air concert in Cornwall in the summer, you get what you ask for. We (myself and a couple of good friends) went to see Peter Gabriel last night at the Eden Project. (Fuzzy mobile phone pic, left!) And yes, it rained. The heavens opened, the skies poured down - but it was far from a washout. It was amazing how quickly we forgot how wet we were getting. Of course, I don't remember exactly when it happened, but it was pretty shortly after the 'man of the hour' took to the stage.

There would be occasional reminders: one bright spark calling out a request for Red Rain, Peter Gabriel responding that "that would be appropriate - if the rain was a bit more red"; the announcement that it was "now officially raining on stage"; and whenever you raised your arms to clap to the beat, the water running down your coat sleeves. But there were times when, either by virtue of the heavens taking a breather or through some benevolent conspiracy of the lighting, the rain would vanish altogether.

It helped that I am in awe of Peter Gabriel. Not only is he a musical craftsman on a par with Kate Bush, he's still very much a showman. This guy once dressed as a flower, and still manages to command my greatest respect. No flowers made it on stage last night, but there were hosts of them, golden or otherwise, all around. Not that they could be seen as daylight steadily drowned.

But if there's one time the British obsession with the weather can be set aside, it's when there's good music and entertainment to be had. The support bands were an eclectic mix, the show actually kicking off with a kids' choir, bless, specially assembled from local schools to commemorate the arrival of Eden's brand new sculpture, the Seed (left) by artist Peter Randall-Page. But they all impressed - kids included - with folkish combo, Show Of Hands, just having the edge over Charlie Winston and his more bluesy beat ensemble.

So all in all, a gradual escalation in the direction of the main event. The set was a great mix - a real Quality Street assortment, if you will - from the man's back catalogue, opening with the powerful The Rhythm Of The Heat and taking us on a journey through familiar favourites - from the thumping I Don't Remember to the gorgeous Family Snapshot - by way of a few almost-forgotten oddities - On The Air and DIY - that for me (not having replaced my earlier Gabriel collection on CD yet) were like rediscovering some curios at the back of a cupboard during a major tidy-up. Of course, we took in inevitable highlights like Steam and the sublime (and at least partially apt) Blood Of Eden, as well as (for the second of three encores) Sledgehammer. Naturally. (While, notable by its absence, it could be said, was Here Comes The Flood. Har har.) But my personal highlight, if I had to pick one, would be when the band had returned to the stage for their first encore. Just as the crowd had finished hollering requests for "Biko!" and "Sledge!", everything quietened down and yours truly shouted out, "Solsbury Hill!" Which was, moments later, exactly what they delivered. Talk about getting what you ask for. :)

And occasionally, in the midst of the music, I had to remind myself to glance around, to take in the unique setting. In front of me, yes, the band (which included bass-maestro Tony Levin and young Melanie Gabriel continuing the family tradition), their shadows cast large on the stage canopy. To my left, silvery lights swaying in the trees high on the embankment, to my right, tints of red and green from the light show trapped in the cells of an enormous bubblewrap Biome. Above us, a huge dome of grey. And it really felt like that: having a wide expanse of ceiling over us. Albeit a leaky one.

Fabulous. Doctor Who never did anything this special in an old quarry. All rounded off with a tremendous buzz as we all headed for the car park.

Imagine my amusement when, attempting to use the word 'rocked' in an SMS this morning, the predictive text turned it into 'soaked'.

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