Peter Gabriel

Planet Hollywood, Oct. 5

Whether wearing outrageous costumes with Genesis 40 years ago or ruling MTV in the 1980s, Gabriel helped pioneer the incorporation of performance art into popular music. Yet his first concert ever in Las Vegas couldn’t have begun with less pomp.

Gabriel walked out unannounced with the house lights still on and described the three-part layout of the show, the climax being the playing of 1986 colossus So in its entirety. The first set, presented as if the theater were one big rehearsal room, opened with Gabriel at the piano accompanied only by bass virtuoso Tony Levin on the unfinished tune “O But.” Joined by the other band members, most of whom also played on the So tour, Gabriel led a piano-driven “Shock the Monkey,” which seemed tempered without the added electricity.

The acoustic format perfectly accentuated the haunting “Family Snapshot,” with the house lights finally dimming mid-song, and transitioned into Part 2, with Gabriel stepping away from the piano to center stage as the band kicked into the high-tempo funk of “Digging in the Dirt.” During the epic “The Family and the Fishing Net,” mobile lights on cranes operated by masked crew members followed Gabriel around the stage before descending on him, and then bobbed around him like mechanical dinosaurs during the frantic “No Self Control.”

The stage burst into vibrant crimson as “Red Rain” brought So to life. Gabriel bounced around during “Sledgehammer,” laid on his back in the middle of the stage to sing “Mercy Street” as cameras focused down on him and dueted with backup singer Jennie Abrahamson on “Don’t Give Up.” After ending So with crowd favorite “In Your Eyes,” the band returned for “The Tower That Ate People,” during which Gabriel was enveloped by a white cylinder that descended from above, and closed with “Biko,” with the crowd chanting along as the band left the stage one by one. At the age of 62, Gabriel might have toned down his onstage spectacle, but he still knows how to wow an audience. ★★★★☆

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