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Wednesday, 21st February 2018

 

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The Many Costumes of Peter Gabriel

 


 
 

Genesis drew some attention in Britain and eventually also in Italy, Belgium, Germany and other European countries, largely due to Gabriel's flamboyant stage presence, which involved numerous bizarre costume changes and comical, dreamlike stories told as the introduction to each song (originally Gabriel developed these stories solely to cover the time between songs that the rest of the band would take tuning their instruments and fixing technical glitches). The concerts made extensive use of black light with the normal stage lighting subdued or off. A backdrop of fluorescent white sheets and a comparatively sparse stage made the band into a set of silhouettes, with Gabriel's fluorescent costume and make-up providing the only other sources of light.

 Costumes

Early Genesis concerts were hampered by a bad PA system which made it difficult for audiences to understand what Gabriel was singing. According to Mike Rutherford, this drove Gabriel to find other ways to impress his personality on the audience, leading to his performing in various costumes.

In an episode of the 2007 British documentary series Seven Ages of Rock, Steve Hackett recalled the first appearance of Gabriel "in costume". It was the dress-wearing, fox-headed entity immortalised on the cover of Foxtrot. Hackett and the rest of the band had no inkling that Gabriel was going to do this, and at the time Hackett worried that it would ruin the performance. It was a success, encouraging Gabriel to continue wearing costumes while singing.

Among Gabriel's many famous costumes, which he developed to visualise the musical ideas of the band as well as to gain press coverage, were "Batwings" for the band's usual opening number, "Watcher of the Skies".

Other costumes included "The Flower" and "Magog", which were both alternately worn for "Supper's Ready" from the album Foxtrot.

"Britannia" was worn for "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight", and "The Reverend" for "The Battle of Epping Forest" (both from Selling England by the Pound).

"The Old Man" was worn for "The Musical Box" from Nursery Cryme.
He also appeared as a fox, a bat, and whatever the heck the “Slipperman” is. These outfits brought a high level of theatricality to the band’s concerts, but they also elevated Gabriel above his bandmates in the eyes of the public, and pushed the actual music to the background. This reportedly upset the communal balance of the group and lead to the singer’s departure in favor of a solo career in 1975.

Although he keeps his wardrobe pretty simple nowadays, when Peter Gabriel was in Genesis he was known for sporting a series of ever-more outlandish costumes, including perhaps most famously, one that turned him into an oversized flower.

 

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