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Peter Gabriel: Back To Front – Peter Gabriel Live In London

Leaden concert video.

Built around a full performance of his 1986 chart-smashing album So, Peter Gabriel’s shows at London’s O2 Arena in 2012 earned rave reviews. But they clearly lost something in translation from stage to screen, because Hamish Hamilton’s live concert film is a stiff and ponderous affair.

Gabriel reunites with the players from the original album and recycles some of its touring props, most strikingly the mobile lighting rigs that dance and glare like alien tripods from The War Of The Worlds. Virtuoso musicianship meets high-tech stagecraft, but all in the service of sterile stockbroker-rock plodders like No Self Control and In Your Eyes. Even Gabriel’s most lively hits, Sledgehammer and Big Time, can muster barely an ounce of funk between them.

Hamilton, who has previously filmed mega-shows for U2, Madonna and the Stones, does his best to create drama with shaky cameras and crash-zoom shots, but he cannot work miracles. A portly, shiny-domed, 60-something Michael Eavis lookalike nowadays, Gabriel simply lacks the charisma and dynamism to make the magic come alive. Like a Silicon Valley CEO unveiling his latest futile consumer gadget to a hall full of whooping shareholders, he looks bored and uncomfortable in the moments when he forgets to smile.

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.