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Gabriel deals with a shark from the audience!

Gabriel in the Zorb ball

Supper's ready?

Track listing:

Here Comes The Flood
Red Rain
Secret World
Sky Blue
Downside Up
The Barry Williams Show
More Than This
Mercy Street
Digging In The Dirt
Growing Up
Animal Nation
Solsbury Hill
Signal To Noise
In Your Eyes
Father, Son
February 2004 SITE MAP   SEARCH

Peter Gabriel: Growing Up Live

featuring: Peter Gabriel, Ged Lynch, Tony Levin, David Rhodes, and Richard Evans

director: Hamish Hamilton

131 minutes (E) 2003 widescreen ratio 16:9
Warner Music DVD Regions 2 to 6 retail

RATING: 10/10
reviewed by Christopher Geary
This is a Real World production, filmed over two nights at the Filaforum, Milan, Italy in May 2003 (during a recent tour of 32 cities across USA, Canada and Europe). The release of studio album Up (his first for 10 years), marks a return for Peter Gabriel to the forefront of rock music innovation as a solo artist while maintaining a popular appeal, and this concert film capitalises on Gabriel's cult following - revitalising his talents and proving he's still capable of attaining high standards as a composer and performer that are unmatched by any other British or American singer/songwriter at this level of the musician's craft.
   Ever the pioneer of tech development in rock music, Gabriel's keyboard table looks like a mission control workstation, as first seen during this concert's opening solo performance of Here Comes The Flood (a version originally heard on his best-of collection, Shaking The Tree). After this intro, the full band arrive on the circular stage at the centre of the arena, mostly dressed - like Gabriel - in black monkish attire, while red-robed tech crew (almost invisible under the ruby lighting washes) scurry about with cameras and equipment. The first of Gabriel's new songs, Darkness, followed by the superb Red Rain, get the show off to a fine start, but it's the tremendous energy of one of Gabriel's best works, Secret World, that really provokes audience reaction and grabs viewers' attention. The climax of this 'classic' Gabriel song features the appearance of an egg-shaped inflatable at the centre of the stage, and this becomes a backdrop projection screen for the visuals accompanying Sky Blue, a wistful yet somewhat melancholy track showcasing the vocal troupe Blind Boys of Alabama.
   With its range of impressively engineered structures and the practised ease of the show's well-rehearsed technical assistants, numerous changes to the arena's double-decker platform gives the impression of a stage set that's changing shape between songs. This is most evident with the next number, Downside Up, which sees Gabriel and daughter Melanie walking on the artificial ceiling! Yet another switch of perspective comes with The Barry Williams Show (a stern critique of all those tacky Jerry Springer style TV shows - "You are what you watch."), which has faux video-media visual effects, and sees Gabriel turning a camera upon the audience in another fine example of his exuberantly theatrical showmanship. Lyrics for the heartily spiritualistic More Than This include another one of Gabriel's shrewdly perceptive socio-political observations: "Nothing fades like the future/ Nothing clings like the past."
   Inspired by the poetry of Anne Sexton, the quietly intense and haunting Mercy Street features Melanie circling the stage in a rowboat while a stunning image of the Moon hangs overhead. But the theatricality of this feels trite and kitsch, and I was unhappily reminded of the miniature Stonehenge debacle in 'mockumentary' This Is Spinal Tap (1984). Thankfully, this misguided attempt to evoke a 'sailing' motif is soon forgotten when Digging In The Dirt begins, and this mesmerising effort - with emphatic camera zooms and razor-sharp editing - is specially notable for Gabriel's commanding presence.
   Growing Up is yet another tour-de-force, which has Gabriel rolling around the stage's rim inside a transparent Zorb ball, pausing at intervals only to bounce up and down on the spot in a wonderful visual riff of the chorus. After this, the self conscious and rather self indulgent Animal Nation, a song about Gabriel's recent 'experiences' with smart monkeys, is something of a letdown - even as the techs deflate the Zorb ball, but Gabriel saves it by turning the chorus chant finale into an amusing namecheck for whole band - guitarists David Rhodes and Richard Evans, bass player Tony Levin, drummer Ged Lynch, jazz fusion artiste Rachel Z on keyboards, and backing vocalist Melanie Gabriel - with audience participation in the customary pantomime fashion. Solsbury Hill is arguably Gabriel's best-loved song, and he's on two wheels for this rendition, bicycling around the stage rim without any sign of appearing tired of performing such 25-year-old material.
   Sledgehammer, certainly Gabriel's most popular recording, follows, and for this show, he wears an overcoat covered with bulbs, which flash like a Christmas tree whenever the main lights go out. The song also features the band's liveliest and most endearing bit of choreography. Signal To Noise ably showcases Tony Levin's bowed bass and features strong backing vocals by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, yet the band leaves the stage before it ends. As an encore, Gabriel returns for a brilliant version of In Your Eyes, and then the show closes as quietly as it began with a live version of Father, Son - the joyfully sentimental song that Gabriel wrote for his dad. It would be so easy to complain about the lack one or two favourite Gabriel songs from this eclectic live set (sadly, there's no Steam, Big Time, San Jacinto, Not One Of Us, I Have The Touch, Rhythm Of The Heat, or Shock The Monkey here), but never mind - what a show... the Peter Gabriel show!
   Although there's only a single disc here, the distinctive brown paper bag effect sleeve encloses gatefold cardboard packaging with two 15-page booklets of Tony Levin's candid tour photographs. The DVD itself has Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound, 2.0 stereo and DTS 5.1 sound options, and disc extras are: The Story Of Growing Up (10 minutes) by York Tillyer, including interview clips of Gabriel in the studio and at home, with some details about design concepts for this show. There's also a slideshow presentation (five minutes) of Mr Levin's tour photos accompanied by a quieter, remixed version of More Than This, an alternate DVD credits sequence, and (if you have a DVD drive on your PC) an interactive version of the Growing Up track available for download from Noodle Heaven

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