Peter Gabriel is as chameleonlike and mysterious a presence as David Bowie–he’s just never called attention to the fact. He’s now a friendly superstar, but he began his post-Genesis solo career with a series of disturbing, ever-more-adventurous albums (all named Peter Gabriel) that helped define the direction music would take in the 80s and 90s. In 1986, with the album So and the animated video for the number-one single “Sledgehammer,” he pulled off one of the great makeovers in rock history: suddenly no longer a shock-rock incubus, he was instead a goofy, manic imp dodging animated planes, trains, and vegetables. Six years later he returned with the rather similar Us, which has done an easy four million sales on the strength of a strange hit single (“Digging in the Dirt,” about psychotherapy), his smoky voice (“Secret World”), and the canniness to repeat himself when necessary (the very “Sledgehammer”-like “Steam”). But he still manages to inject salable hit music with insecurity, pain, and even stranger elements; they’re just hard to hear sometimes through the studio gloss. Live, he belongs to a pantheon that includes U2, the Pet Shop Boys, and very few other acts–those who push the boudaries of what a rock show is supposed to be. This weekend’s shows are supposed to boast futuristic light and stage designs, along with two stages connected by a conveyor belt. I’m psyched. Saturday and Sunday, 8 PM, Rosemont Horizon, 6920 Mannheim, Rosemont; 708-635-6600.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Alan Beukers.