June 2004

Peter Gabriel - Growing Up Live
Universal Music DVD 602498611432
Released: 2003

by Roger Kanno

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Image Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment **

Peter Gabriel is known for his energy and for the feeling of sincerity that comes across in his live performances, which are religiously attended by his loyal fans around the world. His latest concert DVD, Growing Up Live, was shot in Milan and captures much of that energy and the bond that he shares with his audience. His latest stage show is more relaxed and contemplative than that of his Secret World Tour ten years ago, but the complex staging and Gabriel’s rapport with his band and the audience are unmistakable. Joining him onstage are his longtime guitar and bass players, David Rhodes and Tony Levin, along with several newcomers, including his daughter, Melanie Gabriel, who provides backing vocals. All of the players seem to be as inspired by the music as Gabriel is, and it shows in their enthusiastic performances.

Although Gabriel rides a bicycle on stage, bounces around in a Zorb ball, and "walks" upside down while suspended in a harness, his performance is still filled with subtleties and nuance that make his music the focus of his show. On the opening song, "Here Comes the Flood" and the closing number, "Father Son," Gabriel can captivate an audience with just his passionate vocals and a simple melody. Other highlights include a melancholic "Mercy Street" that opens a cappella and "Sky Blue" with guest vocalists the Blind Boys of Alabama.

The sound quality of Growing Up Live is much better than that of most concert recordings, but has obviously been remixed, as is evidenced by the sometimes aggressive use of the stereo surround channels. For example, when Gabriel pirouettes with his tambourine during "Secret World," the sound spins around the room as the tambourine moves from left to right and then across the rear channels. Gabriel’s vocals sound slightly muted at times, but have a large, solid center image and all of the instruments are well delineated, with the occasional and tasteful use of discrete surround channels. Although it is difficult to capture the sound of a large-scale concert, Growing Up Live manages to provide a sense of the expansiveness of the sound yet maintains relatively precise imaging of the individual instruments. The picture quality is also very good, with stage lighting that was no doubt intended to facilitate the translation of this performance to video. Colors seem fairly natural, even with the bright lighting and deep black backgrounds.

The sparse extras included with this disc include a short documentary called "The Story of Growing Up," chronicling the conceptualization of the tour, and a montage of pictures taken by Tony Levin set to the music of a remixed "More Than This."

I recommend Growing Up Live highly for its excellent audio and video quality, although some might find the sound slightly artificial because of the re-mixing. Nonetheless, it is one of the best-sounding concert DVDs I have heard recently. It proves that even though Peter Gabriel is a little older and more laid-back these days, he can still put on a great show.