PETER GABRIEL: GROWING UP LIVE
Reviewed November 25th, 2003 by Brian White
For the second time in twelve months, a Peter Gabriel concert film is being released to DVD. 1993’s Secret World Live came out in March. SWL is a great achievement in concert films as so many great elements come together so well. Robert LePage, a French Canadian artist, worked with Gabriel to stage a very theatrical and technical production. Fantastic DTS and Dolby Digital mixes were created for the DVD, but the video transfer suffered from graininess and being cropped at the top and bottom to facilitate 16x9 enhancement.
Growing Up Live rectifies any technical problem with the Secret World Live disc. Luckily for home theater enthusiasts, the tour from this past year was captured with the latest and greatest technology, and stacks up as one of the best concert videos in existence.
Growing Up presents Gabriel and his fantastic band in the round. A circular, rotating stage is in the middle of the venue. Once again, LePage and Gabriel have come up with clever little staging details and actions to highlight the songs and make for a very interesting experience. This show is every bit as creative as Secret World Live. Perhaps the most interesting events are during “Growing Up.” Despite the spoilers in the television advertisements for the DVD, I won’t ruin the surprises here. Just understand that some very cool things happen during the concert. Having seen the show live, I can testify that this DVD is a very faithful record of the production.
Even without high tech stage craft, Peter Gabriel is the consummate showman. He really puts out for the audience, and this works very well on film when done properly. Here, it is done quite well.
So this is not the Secret World Live disc. There is some magic missing. It could either be the lost novelty (at first seeing LePage’s work), the fact that Melanie Gabriel is not Paula Cole, or just nostalgia. I haven’t figured it out yet. Perhaps anyone who has not enjoyed Secret World Live for ten years would prefer the Growing Up disc.
Shot by Hamish Hamilton, who also directed the U2 Elevation DVD, Growing Up is a very interesting film. Employing an almost Woodstock-esque technique of splitting the image to show multiple angles occasionally, Hamilton explores what the “men in orange” are doing. During the show, several men in orange suites attend to the musicians, move set pieces, and film the events on stage. The color of their outfits does anything but make them blend into the scenery. They were very obvious during the show, and you get a greater view of what they are up to under the stage on this DVD. For example, in the song after Growing Up, you see men in orange deflating the Zorb ball and putting it away.
Given that Secret World Live was just released, it must be mentioned that the last ten years haven’t been kind to Gabriel. Suffering from the inverse relationship of developments with his waistline and hairline, Gabriel has gotten old. Luckily, his voice, showmanship and creativity remain intact.
The video on the disc is presented in “16x9” anamorphic. Methinks it’s somewhere around 1.85:1. Basically, you won’t get any black bars on your widescreen TV. The video was shot with high definition cameras. Compared to Secret World Live, this transfer is heavenly. There is some great camera work, with a bit of Hamilton’s whimsy thrown in. It is all very clear and detailed, except for the purposely distorted video on Barry Williams show segment.
As good as the audio was on Secret World Live, the DTS 5.1 mix here surpasses it. A Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is also included, and is very good, but the DTS mix reaches out and pulls you in somehow. Tony Levin’s bass really kicks you in the ass sometimes. While not overly dynamic (there are some surround effects during Barry Williams Show), the mix is very involving and atmospheric. It sounds like it should sound if you are looking at the stage, listening to the show.
For extras, there’s a cool featurette about the show. Gabriel is interviewed, in perhaps the same sitting as the bit on the Growing Up tour included in the Secret World DVD. He introduces the band, and discusses the ideas for the show, and the long gap since the last tour. Also included are some of Tony Levin’s photos, from his web site, and a DVD-ROM interactive feature. Some remixes are said to be included, but I could not find them. A mention must be made about the cool footage from the end credits, where Gabriel is seen in the streets of Milan in the Zorb ball. Also, the packaging is very neat, featuring 2 booklets of photos attached to the fold-out insert.
Very good for the price. I found it for $9! Highly recommended, if you dig Gabriel.
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