35 years ago my not-yet roommate was belting a song on our college quad about a guy who died in a South African prison. “Who sings about stuff like that?” I wondered.
Peter Gabriel sings about stuff like that.
On that same quad, someone’s radio was playing a boppin’ song from a British band and to this day I remember my introduction to Sting as he sang with his band The Police.
Sting also sings politically charged songs. Peter Gabriel also sings boppin’ songs. They’re on tour together and I got to witness their synthesis last night at The Palace.
“Buckingham Palace?” my cousin Keith joked via text. No, although they’re both British, this was at The Palace of Auburn Hills, Michigan.
Since Peter Gabriel is my wife’s favorite musician and Sting is mine, we simply had to buy tickets for our birthdays. When we got there, our section was closed off for some reason, so they took the liberty of moving us down next to the stage. That blank spot way over at the middle left was our section. This picture was taken from our new seats with a wide-angle lens. Score!
We met lots of random friends there, more posted online that they also were in attendance. With an average age of 65 (one is 64, the other 66), these blokes still danced and sang like they were lads in their youth. One of the friends we met, Venus, said Sting has the body of a man half his age. They joyously played some of their most popular hits — switched things up and played each other’s most iconic hits — then sang their favorite hits together.
Sting belted Peter Gabriel’s classic Shock The Monkey. Peter Gabriel did a hilarious version of Sting’s If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free in a low, crooning, Barry White style. They sung Englishman In New York, Games Without Frontiers and Sledgehammer together among others.
And even though most of the night was rollicking fun, they had to be true to themselves and pay tribute to the victims of injustice and violence. Beautiful photos of young children across the world were displayed on a rotating carousel. Then Sting sang Fragile, in tribute to those slain in Orlando. Later, Peter Gabriel spoke of how he met a young woman at a conference a few years ago. That was Jo Cox, who later went on to become of a member of Parliament until she was slain two weeks ago. He played his new song, Love Can Heal, in dedication to her.
The most poignant part of the night for me was when Peter Gabriel sang Don’t Give Up with backup singer Jennie Abrahamson admirably replacing Kate Bush, who sang it originally. I’ve loved the song for years but had a visceral, emotional reaction to it halfway through. It’s a perfect anthem for those dealing with change, illness, unemployment, anything difficult, really. Our friend Paul, who we ran into afterward, said it reminded him of the unemployed men standing on street corners with signs. It affected him too.
Speaking of being moved by a song, my two favorite singers played my two all-time favorite songs one after the other, back-to-back, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic and Solsbury Hill. As it was pointed out on social media after the show by yet another friend, Kathie, I played Solsbury Hill over and over again when I went into remission half-a-dozen years ago. Powerful! Our friend Anne, though, told us it was initially written as a breakup song between Peter Gabriel and his former band, Genesis.
Psychologists tell us that music changes our brain chemistry and can affect our health. I understand that on a gut level, the whiffs of pot swirling around The Palace notwithstanding. I danced like no one was watching even when I looked down several rows and saw a dude turned around smiling and watching me. I sung louder and probably more out of tune than I’ve sang in forever. I did a synchronized step with the two middle-aged women to my right and had one of the most exhilarating nights in recent memory.
Every little thing last night was magic!