Peter Gabriel - Growing Up Live / Still Growing Up Live & Unwrapped DVD review

Vintage Peter Gabriel keeps it steady as she goes

TODO alt text

In 2002, Peter Gabriel hadn’t been on tour in a decade, but with a new album, Up, he decided to hit the road to see, in his words, if he still had any fans out there. The three concert films collected here chronicle his live shows from the Growing Up tour of 20022003, and the 2004 sequel, Still Growing Up. This material has been released before, but now it’s all gathered into one package and brought to Blu-ray for the first time.

It’s all done with meticulous care, not daredevil abandon.

Gabriel used the same band for both tours and inevitably there’s a lot of overlap in song selection and production. Everyone is clad in black and Gabriel sports a tabard/apron that makes him look rather like a cross between a barber and Uncle Fester from The Addams Family. Anyone coming to a Peter Gabriel concert expecting a rock’n’roll circus is barking up the wrong proverbial. Every note, step and production decision is carefully considered and Gabriel’s performances are measured – presumably he’s having fun, but he rarely cracks a smile. Even when he’s riding around the stage in a Zorb (a giant hamster ball for humans) or performing Downside Up while hanging upside down, it’s all done with meticulous care, not daredevil abandon.

Growing Up, shot in Milan, starts slowly with Here Comes The Flood and Darkness, only really gaining energy and momentum with the powerful Red Rain. Director Hamish Hamilton intercuts shots of the band with the road crew and technicians, but it’s not particularly revelatory to watch men in orange jumpsuits crouching under a stage. During In Your Eyes, the band perform synchronised dance steps, like The Shadows used to do in the 60s – an odd, cutesy touch.

A lot of songs feature extended arrangements from their studio origins, although these involve repeating a phrase rather than improvisation or bold new interpretations.

Still Growing Up suffers from a proclivity for extreme close-ups of Gabriel’s eyes and mouth, which seem artistically unmotivated. The excellent Games Without Frontiers makes its first appearance but the tone is still resolutely po-faced, even when Gabriel and his daughter Melissa are zipping back and forth on Segways. Unwrapped intersperses the live performances with an interview with Gabriel, but he’s so guarded and self-contained that it’s impossible to get any sense of what makes him tick.

Regardless, the sound and video quality throughout are excellent, the playing is flawless and Gabriel is in fine voice, so although his presentation may be careful, he remains a singular, compelling presence.

The 60-Second Peter Gabriel Quiz

The top 10 best Peter Gabriel songs

Peter Gabriel's solo albums Us and Up abandoned pop for prog's darkest side