Peter Gabriel - Detroit 2023It’s been 21 years since Peter Gabriel has released an album of all original material and toured behind it, and this past Friday, September 29, the former frontman of Genesis brought his i/o Tour to Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena and performed much of the upcoming release, splattered with well-known hits and essentials.

The show began with a huge, illuminated clock face suspended above the stage and Gabriel walking out alone. He spoke about the passage of time and origins of the planet four-and-a-half billion years ago. He joked that he was an avatar created 20 lbs. heavier and older and bald as opposed to his real self who was laying on a Caribbean beach looking like a Greek God. A light came down from the rafters and he symbolically lit a fire of life at center stage before opening with Here Comes the Flood from his first solo album. It was also the first song he played in his first solo Detroit appearance at Masonic Temple 45 years earlier ironically. And in another first, the song made its first US tour debut tonight.

The song was performed seated around the fire with his longtime bassist and collaborator Tony Levin, and as the first song was ending, his full band including regular bandmates guitarist David Rhodes and drummer Manu Katché joined around the fire. They then played an intimate version of Growing Up from the Up album before going into full performance mode for the first new song of the evening, Panopticom. In total 11 songs from the yet to be released album i/o were performed this night and the Detroit audience were riveted throughout.

The first really big hit of the night was performed at the end of the first half of the show. The monster hit Sledgehammer, from 1986’s So, got the crowd excited and dancing at their seats. This was the first real rocker of the night and Gabriel was up prancing back and forth across the stage and sounding great. He’s 73 now and jokes about his appearance but his energy and his pipes are just fine.

After a 20-minute intermission the band returned, and the second set started behind a series of translucent video screens with the song Darkness from the album Up. The stage show to this point was beautifully subtle with a flow of different video screens moving in and out behind the band, but this was new to me with the effects in front. The screens displayed a combination of video and shadows from lights shone behind, and through some type of electronic wand, Gabriel was able to paint colours on the screen in front of him.

The musicianship of this group of nine was as tight as anything I have ever heard. Ayanna Witter-Johnson was spellbinding in her turns as accompanying vocalist, particularly during the moving “Don’t Give Up”, performing the vocals that Kate Bush sang in the original recording nearly 40 years ago. The stage presentation was simple yet beautiful, bathed in blue and red light and blue and red squares with stairs and a platform in back where the two singers met during the middle of the song. This is a song of hope, and the entire evening’s performance had an uplifting feel to it.

Also performing on this tour are Josh Shpak: trumpet, French Horn, EWI, backing vocals, Don-E: keyboards, synth, backing vocals; Richard Evans, mandolin, guitar, EWI, backing vocals; Marina Moor: Violin, viola, backing vocals.

The last song of the second set was also his first big solo hit, Solsbury Hill. This was probably his biggest vocal test, and he passed it with flying colours, hitting all the notes as if it was 1977 again. He encouraged the crowd to sing along with the line “boom boom boom” by punching his microphone up into the air and the fans obliged. It was a great song to end the main set with and got everyone on their feet.

The show was scattered with 11 of the 12 songs from the upcoming new i/o album, with the only omission being the single So Much. The rest of the material mostly centered around So, Up and Car. Fans really appreciated and took in the new music. Known for its unique release strategy, the album rolls out singles in alignment with each full moon, accompanied by an alternative mix—either ‘Bright-Side’ or ‘Dark-Side’—as well as the ‘In-Side’ mix unveiled every new moon.

The night ended with two encores, In Your Eyes, where he gave a shout out to the entire production crew in their orange jumpsuits while stage cameras caught them and projected them onto the large screens on either side of the stage. The final song of the night was Biko, a song he wrote after the death of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko in 1977. He’s been doing this song as an encore for many years as a shoutout to all the human rights and environmental activists around the world who risk their lives. It was a memorable evening of incredible music and musicianship that I’m sure everyone in the building will be talking about for days and weeks to come.

All photos by Dan Boshart

Set 1:

  • Here Comes the Flood
  • Growing Up
  • Panopticom
  • Four Kinds of Horses
  • i/o
  • Digging in the Dirt
  • Playing for Time
  • Olive Tree
  • This Is Home
  • Sledgehammer

Set 2:

  • Darkness
  • Love Can Heal
  • Road to Joy
  • Don’t Give Up
  • The Court
  • Red Rain
  • And Still
  • Big Time
  • Live and Let Live
  • Solsbury Hill


  • In Your Eyes
  • Biko



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