To raise awareness of human rights issues and to honor the 25th anniversary of Amnesty International, an impressive roster of musicians banded together in June of 1986. Billed as "A Conspiracy Of Hope," the tour hit six American cities and through press conferences, media events and the actual concerts, the artists directly engaged listeners on the issues of human dignity and human rights, inviting a new generation to take action to free prisoners of conscience throughout the world. The tour featured U2, Sting and Bryan Adams headlining the bill, with Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed, The Neville Brothers and Joan Baez in the supporting slots.
The final concert of the tour took place at Giants stadium before a sold-out audience of 70,000 and greatly expanded the performing lineup. This event became a 12 hour marathon running from noon until nearly midnight and would be simulcast globally on MTV and the Westwood One radio network. For this major media event, celebrities and leaders of the entertainment industry joined the musicians, appearing on camera in public service announcements and several, including Bill Graham, Darryl Hannah, Robert DeNiro, Bill Bradley, Christopher Reeve, Michael J. Fox, and Muhammed Ali all appeared on stage to announce the performers. In addition to the afore-mentioned headliners and support acts, for this final concert, additional performers included John Eddie with Max Weinberg, Third World, The Hooters, Peter Paul & Mary, Little Steven with Bob Geldof, Stanley Jordan, Joan Armatrading, Jackson Browne, Rubén Blades, Yoko Ono, Howard Jones, Miles Davis, and Joni Mitchell. Carlos Santana also sat in on several sets (including The Neville Brothers, Ruben Blades and Miles Davis' sets) and the night was capped off with a highly anticipated reunion set by The Police.
Presented here are highlights from Peter Gabriel's performance that night, which played no small role in increasing his stature among American audiences. Prior to the Internet, this was perhaps the most viewed live appearance of Gabriel's career and in retrospect, arguably one of his greatest performances. To put this performance in perspective, this was just a month after the release of Gabriel's breakthrough album So and the equally groundbreaking animated video for "Sledgehammer, which was rapidly becoming a ubiquitous presence on MTV.
The recording begins with Gabriel's set opening number, "Red Rain," which also opened his new album, So. Originally conceived as a theme song for a movie concept called "Mozo," where villagers were punished for their sins with a blood red rain, here Gabriel dedicates the song to prisoners on death row in America. This is a striking opener that finds Gabriel in great vocal form and his outstanding band providing superb accompaniment. Never one to shy away from addressing human rights or politically charged issues; this sets the tone for the rest of Gabriel's performance.
Having grabbed their attention, Gabriel next gets the 70,000 strong audience directly involved by delivering a frenetic performance of "Shock The Monkey," his innovative and danceable meditation on jealousy from his Security album, released four years prior. With its relentlessly repeated hook, infectious rhythm and one of Gabriel's most urgent vocals, this develops into a call and response, with this massive audience adding their own dimension by clapping along in rhythm. Another older song from Security follows with, "San Jacinto, which Gabriel informs the audience was inspired by a story told to him by an Apache Indian. Kicked off with a drum pattern by Manu Katche, that is not unlike a funeral march, this ominous number reflects on the fear and anguish of Native Americans whose culture has become overwhelmed by modern white society. This is a haunting performance that concludes with Gabriel striking a pose of survival with a tightly clenched fist held high (Note: These performances are also available for viewing here in the Video Vault.)
The conclusion of Gabriel's set is one of the peak moments of the entire day as he delivers an emotionally charged version of the anthemic "Biko." A protest song, originally included on his self-titled 1980 solo album, this conveys the story of black South African anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko, who was arrested by South African police a decade earlier. After being tortured during interrogation, where he sustained serious head injuries, Biko was transferred to prison, where his injuries were neglected and he died shortly afterwards. This is a truly hypnotic performance that unites the audience as one and finds them continuing to chant long after Gabriel exits the stage.