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Last Updated: Monday, 19 May, 2003, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Gabriel's high-energy return
by Jackie Bailey
In Manchester

Peter Gabriel performing in Paris on 14 May
Gabriel had a rapport with the audience
Peter Gabriel embarked on his first UK tour for a decade when he played in Manchester on Sunday.

It was to a packed MEN Arena that supporting act The Blind Boys of Alabama kicked off Peter Gabriel's Growing Up Tour 2003.

The band played a lively and polished performance and sparked the energy that was to typify the rest of the evening.

But it was the lone figure of Peter Gabriel entering the stage that really brought the house alive, and the next two and a half hours showed the reason why.

With fine support from his band, which included Tony Levin on bass and his daughter Melanie Gabriel singing backing vocals, he performed a range of songs from his extensive back catalogue.

Old favourites such as Solsbury Hill and Sledgehammer delighted the crowd, along with tracks from his first solo album in 10 years, Up, including The Barry Williams Show and Growing Up.

Fibre optic

And, as might be expected from the rock legend, the music was complimented by an entertaining and energetic visual show full of theatrical effects.

The singer was suspended upside down and spinning on wires at one point. During another sequence he was rolling around the stage fully encased in a huge fibre optic illuminated flashing rubber ball.

All of this took place in the round, which created a more intimate relationship with the audience.

Throughout the set, Gabriel kept up a dialogue with the audience, ranging from humorous anecdotes and quips to comments on more serious social themes and issues. The audience lapped it up.

He may be getting older, but in this age of over-produced packaged teen pop, Gabriel's creative talent proves he has still got what it takes.

Peter Gabriel plays Birmingham NEC on Monday and London's Wembley Arena on Wednesday and Thursday.

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