Timmy Capello - saxophone, keyboards; Larry Fast - synthesizers; Peter Gabriel - vocals, piano; Tony Levin - bass, Chapman stick, backing vocals; Sid McGuinness - guitar, backing vocals; Jerry Marotta - drums; Guest: Robert Fripp - guitar
Following his 1975 departure from Genesis, at the height of their popularity, and after a period of rest and creative rejuvenation, Peter Gabriel returned with his compelling first solo album in 1977. In the two-year interim, Gabriel had matured as both an artist and a songwriter. His new music was scaled down considerably and gone were the rhetorical and prog-rock musical flourishes that characterized Genesis. Over the course of his first three solo albums, he would become increasingly adventurous and increasingly introspective, creating music on his own terms. He began working with some of the most talented and esoteric musicians of the era, including King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, (who was then pursuing his own solo and session work career) and the extraordinarily talented bass player, Tony Levin, a veteran of the New York studio session scene. Gabriel's new music could be explosively powerful one minute and psychologically introspective the next, taking listeners on a dark, brooding journey through the bleak recesses of his mind.
Peter Gabriel collectors may be familiar with six of the 18 tracks here, as they were initially broadcast worldwide by the King Biscuit Flower Hour and have circulated extensively ever since. However, here for the first time is the complete unedited 94-minute Bottom Line recording from the early show of October 4, 1978, when Gabriel debuted his second album material to a highly enthusiastic New York City audience. The intimacy of the venue, which only held several hundred listeners, brings a palpable (and easily audible) immediacy to this performance that is utterly unique and quite engaging.
The performance begins with little fanfare and Peter alone at the piano. He begins with a brief monologue about psychiatry, while displaying a teddy bear to the audience, which he informs about the first time he ever performed as a child. He then opens the set with that same first song, "Me and My Teddy Bear." This intimate beginning to the show is followed by some orchestral synthesized music over the PA as the band joins him on stage and then kick into "On The Air," the energetic pop/rocker that led off his debut album. Over the course of the next 90 minutes, Gabriel delivers 13 of the 18 songs that comprised his first two albums, nearly playing both albums in their entirety.
From his debut album, highlights include the majestic tribal sounding "Moribund The Burgermeister," the cocktail-jazz ballad "Waiting For The Big One," "Slowburn," plus "Flotsam and Jetsam" combination, with its modular sections reminiscent of his work with Genesis. And of course there's the beautiful "Solsbury Hill," his most autobiographical song of this era. Two additional first album tracks surface at the end of the show and during the very special encore, which will be addressed shortly.
The bulk of the rest of the set features most of the material from his recently released second album. It met with mixed reviews at the time, but gradually gained respect over the years and contained several of his most enduring songs. In this live context, Gabriel and the band shed new light on "Perspective," an up-tempo number showcasing saxophone player Timmy Capello, the sad introspective piano ballad, "Indigo" and the artistically adventurous and lyrical "Mother Of Violence." There's also a little optimism here, displayed in the catchy "A Wonderful Day In a Wonderful World," and the stripped down "D.I.Y." The new album is additionally represented by the aforementioned set opener, "On The Air," and a scorching take on "White Shadow," which allows guitarist Sid McGuinness to cut loose.
Gabriel also performs an embryonic version of "I Don't Remember," a new song that would eventually surface on his third album. Which leaves the tail end of this remarkable show. For the last song of the set, Gabriel returns to the first album and brings a special guest onstage, the producer on his new album and guitarist extraordinaire, Robert Fripp. They launch into a seven-minute take on "Modern Love," with Fripp adding chunky rhythmic washes of sound to the already heady mix of musicians. It's a smoking conclusion to the set and the crowd is at a veritable frenzy by the end.
After overwhelmingly enthusiastic applause, the entire entourage, including Fripp, returns to the stage for an encore. Gabriel is obviously in great spirits as he launches the group into a pummeling take on The Kinks' classic, "All Day And All Of The Night." This is one hellacious cover, with Fripp adding scorching Frippetronics to the proceedings. His leads bite through like a wall of guitar players here and it is one thoroughly exciting performance. Then, almost diametrically opposed to what just preceded it, Gabriel begins the hauntingly beautiful "Here Comes The Flood." This is another highlight of this performance, with a penetrating vocal from Gabriel and Fripp adding poignant sonic textures in all the right places. As Fripp exits the stage, they close the encore with the ambitious title track of his Genesis opus, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.
Much like the trilogy of his first three solo albums, this music can be insightful, morbid, beautiful, powerful, bleak, innovative, disturbing and delightful; occasionally all these things simultaneously. Listening to this performance makes it fairly obvious why Gabriel needed to leave Genesis. He was discovering a way to reach far beyond his progressive-rock roots while simultaneously exploring the inner depths of his own psyche. This recording captures that initial era perfectly, when Peter Gabriel was exploring musical possibilities and creating personal and innovative music with a broad range of stylistic colors.