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Peter Gabriel | Growing Up Live | review | dvd | Lollipop

Peter Gabriel: Growing Up Live

(Real World/Geffen)
by Tim Den

A stunning documentation of two shows in Italy, Growing Up Live is proof that Peter Gabriel's live shows – like his studio output – only get better with age. Already well-known for his highly-conceptual performances, beginning with Genesis to '94's Secret World tour, this DVD presents Gabriel's millennial vision in galactic forms. I'm not speaking metaphorically when I say that electricity rips through the air ("Signal to Noise"), gravity is reversed ("Downside Up"), and the Earth moves with the music (on multiple songs). With an enormous stage crew, Gabriel's set changes dramatically from song to song, one minute a minimal spotlight ("Here Comes the Flood"), the next a shapeshifting Transformer. Pieces of the stage sink, rise, and extend, while Gabriel himself sings from within inflated globes, while riding a bike, and dressed in light bulbs. There's so much presentation that your head spins just from the scope of it. And the most amazing thing about it is that it's never overdone, never melodramatic. Each change-over of the setting fits the songs' moods perfectly, accentuating the emotions and dynamics as if it was part of the music. Even with a (rare) dreadful song like "The Barry Williams Show," the presentation (a mosaic of television screens) is so fitting that you can't deny its effectiveness.

Not that Gabriel needs any help conveying the power of his songs. The man could be performing on a wooden plank and come off as a deity. His voice is absolutely flawless throughout: Effortless and graceful, filled to the brim with his trademark melancholy. When "Red Rain" or the classic "In Your Eyes" hit your ears, all the hairs on your body stand up. The crashing crescendos, the impeccable playing of his backing band (including his very talented daughter, Melanie, on backup vocals), and the tasteful use of electronic flourishes render sights and sounds that we the fans have known all along. Gabriel forever has his finger on the pulse of modernity, as if his last album, Up, didn't already show the world.

Funny how it takes an elder statesman like Gabriel to show us what music is really capable of. By incorporating laptops, world music instruments, and ethnic voices (Blind Boys of Alabama, as well as several Southeast Asian singers make guest appearances), Gabriel creates a world where crystal-clear quality and unflinching progressiveness don't get in the way of human emotion. Rather, they support the gorgeously-crafted songs like gravy on meat: Extra touches that not only make all the difference aesthetically, but never get in the way of the song's original impact and meaning. In the case of Growing Up Live, you get all that and a revelation for the eyes. What else can you ask for?
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