Reuniting with Genesis was just about the last thing on Peter Gabriel’s mind in 1982. He’d been out of the band for seven years at that point and his solo career was finally beginning to take off. His single “Shock the Monkey” was his first Top 40 hit in America, crowds at his concerts were growing every year and critics loved his most recent two albums.
The only thing that would have brought him back to Genesis was if people were literally threatening to murder him, which is exactly what happened after a WOMAD concert he staged in England was a financial disaster. “The debts were more than I could ever hope to sort out personally,” he said. “I had some horrible phone calls and death threats from people I owed money to. It was a very oppressive nightmare.”
Gabriel wasn’t yet the solo star he’d become later in the decade, so any fundraising show he put on himself wouldn’t make nearly enough money to get him out of the jam. Fortunately, his departure with Genesis was extremely amicable and they were more then happy to step in and help out. “Whether or not he felt he needed out help to get himself out of the trouble, it made sense to us,” said Phil Collins. “It certainly was not a condescending gesture.”
Genesis were in the final stages of a tour supporting Three Sides Live, and as soon as it ended they began rehearsing with Gabriel at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. (Somehow those tapes got out and you can hear them here.) Gabriel is a meticulous perfectionist when it comes to preparing for any sort of show, but in this case he had two days before they played to an absolutely enormous crowd at the National Bowl in Milton Keynes, England. That may explain their decision to not film the concert or even professionally record it, though many in the audience had tapes rolling and you can hear an audience recording of the full show above.
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After opening sets by John Martyn, the Blues Band and Talk Talk, Genesis took the stage in the midst of a vicious rainstorm. In a typically dramatic move, the band carried Gabriel onto the stage in an actual coffin. As they kicked into the beginning of “Back in N.Y.C.” he emerged from the coffin dressed as Rael, the central character from the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. This completely unique lineup of Genesis featured Chester Thompson and Phil Collins on drums, Mike Rutherford on bass/rhythm guitar, Daryl Stuermer on lead guitar and Tony Banks on the keyboard. They billed themselves as Six of the Best. Steve Hackett, who quit the band in 1977, had just wrapped up a South American tour and made his way to the concert as quickly as physically possible. He wouldn’t make it onstage until the final two songs. (The experience inspired his song “Time Lapse at Milton Keynes.”)
Many of the songs, including “In the Cage,” “Supper’s Ready” and “The Carpet Crawlers,” had all been played on recent Genesis tours. Only tiny bits, like the complete “Musical Box,” hadn’t been touched since Gabriel left in 1975. Gabriel, however, had barely played any Genesis songs on his solo tours and struggled a bit throughout the night. “I was frustrated because it was very sloppy,” he said. “I was certainly not sharp enough…It was a bit like going to school when you haven’t been there for thirty years.”
The only non-Genesis song performed during the show was “Solsbury Hill,” which was inspired by Gabriel’s decision to leave the band. They followed it up with “Turn it on Again,” a surreal moment where Gabriel and Collins actually traded spots onstage. Gabriel began his career as a drummer, and he managed to make it through the song without any real difficulty. They wrapped up with “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” and a condensed version of “The Knife.”
It’s now a third of a century later and this remains the only time that Peter Gabriel has played with Genesis since leaving the band. With the exception of a Steve Hackett solo gig in early 1983, it also marks the last time he sang a Genesis song anywhere in public. “We made a mistake not filming it,” Rutherford told Rolling Stone in February. “The feeling was that we shouldn’t record it because it won’t be great live. There were rough edges, but we should have done it anyway. It was a moment we should have captured, warts and all.”