Since 1994, this writer has had the bizarre fortune to meet blue-eyed British singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel a handful of times. For purposes of this article, I’m going to define a meeting as “where words are exchanged.” Of course, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut about these fleeting meetings and wrote about them on the web and on Peter Gabriel related fan sites.
2010 saw Peter touring to support his album “Scratch My Back” and a still-unnamed album of orchestrated arrangements of his songs. Since 1994, Peter has been touring less and less. (Hopefully, meeting me for the first time that same year did not influence his decision to stay at home more.)
This year I’ve gone to three concerts on this remarkable ground-breaking tour and have met Peter twice, in Radio City Music Hall on May 2 and at the Arena Leipzig on September 14. I’m now getting requests about how to meet Peter.
Rule number one – don’t shoot your mouth off about meeting him like idiot me has done. Oh, if only I could go back in time. At least I had the sense to not reveal all we talked about, but any Gabriel fan in the same hemisphere as you will find you if they discover that you somehow managed to meet Peter more than twice in a lifetime. Keep that in mind.
The Bitter Truth
There is no deep, dark secret to meeting Peter Gabriel. There is no particular palm to grease, no special handshake to learn and no golden ticket to present. I’ve had other fans suggest to me that I have some crystal ball that can predict Peter’s future movements. If I did, do you think I would bother writing for Helium and Associated Content?
You either meet Peter or you don’t. It’s that simple and it’s that difficult. It doesn’t matter how you are dressed, if your hair is styled or anything like that. Peter also has no telepathic connection to anyone (at least, not that he has admitted.) He has no idea of how long a fan you’ve been or how many gigs you’ve seen or how often you’ve dreamt about meeting him.
If you see him out in public, at an airport or walking to and from a concert, you can approach him to ask him a question or for an autograph or whatever. He will either say “Um, yes” or “Um, no.” There really isn’t anything more secret to meeting him than that. But do use some common sense. If, for example, he’s running pell-mell towards a hospital, please either leave him alone or open the hospital door for him so he doesn’t run full tilt into it. He gets preoccupied sometimes.
Peter has this really bizarre habit of acting like a normal human being. If he wants to go to the shops, he goes to the shops without any entourage in tow. If he wants to walk to a pub for a beer, he walks to the pub, sits down, pays for the beer with his own money, drinks it and then has to find the gents’ room.
Now, granted, this activity of acting like a normal human being can really throw Peter Gabriel fans for a loop. Certainly, there must be a catch somewhere. Certainly, no one can just walk up to a beer-drinking musical legend and talk to him as you would another person. But it can be done.
It is normal to be afraid of offending him if you approach him. He is an incredibly busy man. Just think if you were incredibly busy and some stranger began to pester you. But if he’s incredibly busy, he will stop, look you in the eye and say, “I’m sorry, but I’m incredibly busy.” No harm done. And, since words are exchanged, it does count as a meeting, even though it may not have ended as you wanted. But you still get bragging rights within the PG fan community if that’s any consolation.
What He’s Like
I get asked this question a lot. I haven’t even spent 24 hours in total with him and suddenly I’m the David Attenborough of Peter Gabriel behaviour. But I’ve compared my experiences with dozens of other fortunate fans and feel I can dare to come up with a reasonable approximation of what Peter Gabriel is like when he meets his fans:
He speaks quietly.
He’s quick to laugh.
He’ll look you in the eye, whenever possible.
He’s incredibly sexy without trying to be, so brace for the sudden surge in your hormone levels.
He may shake your hand.
He may even introduce himself.
He may ask where you are from.
He may lie to you but in the nicest way possible. For example, if you say you’ve met him before, he may gasp and say, “Ah, no wonder I didn’t recognise you. You’ve lost so much weight!”
He may give one autograph per person, if he is in the mood, but please provide him with a pen and hold his drink if he is carrying one.
He may accept an autograph from you if, again, he is in the mood.
He tends to touch the person he poses for a photo with, male or female.
He’s been photographed so many times that he may tell you to hold still for the next snap if he feels one is forthcoming or if a digital camera flashes once instead of twice.
He may lean his body in the general area of where he wants to go to before he finally tells you that he has to be somewhere.
And, most importantly, if I discover that you’ve bothered him, I will find you and bother YOU. Trust me – Peter you may want to meet in a dark alley. But you never want to meet me in a dark alley if I know that you bothered Peter. (Just look at my picture and shudder.) Although this article is classified in the “Humor” section, this paragraph you better take seriously.
So, in conclusion, place yourself in Peter’s shoes. At the moment you see him, try to think — if you were doing what you see him doing, would you want to have a stranger approach you? For example, if he’s standing in front of a urinal, the answer would be no. If he’s wandering about WOMAD nodding at strangers, the answer would be yes.
Good luck and remember to breathe.