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Peter Gabriel – Growing Up Live + Still Growing Up Live & Unwrapped (Blu-ray Review)

Peter Gabriel - Growing Up Live + Still Growing Up Live & Unwrapped (Blu-ray Review)Man, now THIS is the kinda of live show that is sorely missing from this generation of artists!  Folks today think they can get away with throwing up a bunch of flashy lights and random explosions and still call it a live show!  Peter Gabriel is here to tell you that that concept just isn’t up to snuff!  The man actually attempts to visually recreate his songs while onstage.  Each and every song gets it’s own unique visual interpretation.  Whether it’s something as simple as synchronizing himself with a few musicians as they twirl to the beat of the music.  Or it’s something as grand as climbing inside a giant inflatable plastic bubble and rolling it around while the stage itself rotates at the same time!  Growing Up Live is simply a JOY to watch!

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Concert

I think what amazes me most about Peter is his ability to wear this intense mystique, while also conveying an immense sense of warmth and welcoming.  This is so freaking rare with artists of this level.  So often we see musicians with such longevity holding themselves above their audience.  That just isn’t the case with Gabriel.  For the most part, his songs are deeply introspective and self-evaluating.  Generally when an artist writes in a such a personal way it can come off as kinda egotistical.  And this always leaves me aksing, “Do you even care about other people’s perspectives?!”.  But that’s just the thing; he seems like he almost cares TOO much about what others are thinking about him.  But again, this is not in a selfish way.  This only comes from a place of true self discovery and honest reflection.

Peter Gabriel - Growing Up Live + Still Growing Up Live & Unwrapped (Blu-ray Review)

For the most part, I’ve never really been a fan of live shows presented “in-the-round”.  Certain aspects of the show usually get hidden depending on where your seat is placed.  I was very pleased to see how elegantly the band was positioned around the stage.  Now granted, I’m watching this through several different cameras that offer a variety of different angles.  But I’ve seen other home video concerts in-the-round and they never seemed to reach the diverse array of visual perspectives that Growing Up Live has with this release.  The precise placement of each musician plays a large part in the quality of this show.  But the fact that they’re also allowed to move freely about the stage, gives the performance a sense of grandeur that would otherwise be lost.

Occasionally throughout the show we get behind the scenes looks at what goes on below the stage.  We see stage hands dressed in bright orange ensembles resembling Shaolin Monks as they quickly prepare for the next song.  At first this struck me as rather odd as the stage hands are usually dressed in all black so as not to distract from the experience.  But I soon realized that if a bunch of people suddenly popped out of the ground, they’d be noticeable regardless of what color they wore.  So most likely this was Peter’s own way of taking what most would see as a problem, and incorporating it into the show.  He himself is adorned in an all black Asian motif that would fit seamlessly into “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.  Don’t get me wrong!  I not making fun of this man.  I would LOVE to be able to wear something like that to work!
Peter Gabriel - Growing Up Live + Still Growing Up Live & Unwrapped (Blu-ray Review)

I recently had the good fortune to see Peter live and in person.  And though it was in a traditional stage setting, it still left real impression.  This was a split concert with Sting where they alternated between songs.  I’ve never really been a huge fan of either artist but after that show, Mr.Gabriel can definitely consider me one of his new disciples!  Which, in a way, is sort of a strange thing for me to say.  His music isn’t exactly the kind of thing that you would normally catch me jamming to in my car. I generally prefer a more conventional approach to songwriting.  If you were to classify his music, it would probably fall under the heading of “World Music”.  You know, lots of rhythms and melodies inspired by a variety of international folk styles, combined with Rock’N’Roll riffs. But what draws me to his work isn’t so much his particular style, but the earnest transparency of his lyrics and melodies.

Still Growing Up Live is presented in the standard stage format.  Somewhat resembling the live show I saw, minus Sting of course.  The show opens with a solo middle eastern flute performance that is as haunting as it is beautiful.  This concert is also presented in an open air stadium rather than a closed ceiling venue as I saw him.  I must say that the sound mix is far superior on Growing Up Live.  The tones on the Blu-ray are just so much richer and balanced compared to this DVD.  It almost feels like the instruments are vying for sonic position around Peter’s vocals.

For example, the opening song, “Red Rain” is almost completely overpowered by the Bass Guitar.  To the point where it’s difficult to make out Peter’s words as he sings.  Visually speaking, the band seems much more segregated from each other.  And I think this isn’t due to their particular arrangement on the stage, but rather the rapid fire editing between cameras. It just doesn’t allow for the viewer to settle into a moment before it cuts to someone else.  Overall Growing Up Live is much more enjoyable and representative of the Peter Gabriel experience.

The thing that struck me right off that bat when I first heard him play, was just how dark and moody his music can be.  The main reason I tend to bypass most artists within the “World” genre is because of how blindingly upbeat they tend to be.  Now I’m not saying that all music has to have a darker side. Put on some Village People and just TRY and keep me off of the dance floor!  But there should be some kind of a balance to the music or else it just sounds like a bad rendition of Hakuna Matata from the Lion King!  I feel like so many artists of this genre come off as pretentious “Music Gods” who think they have the answer to all the worlds problems.  Thankfully Gabriel doesn’t even attempt to place himself in such a role.  Instead, he simply offers his own deeply personal perspective on what it is to be a human being.

Peter Gabriel - Growing Up Live + Still Growing Up Live & Unwrapped (Blu-ray Review)

Video
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080i
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Original aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Clarity/Detail: The Blu-ray concert is crystal clear with exceptionally detailed precision.  The DVD however seems to be shot on a much older form of video technology.  I don’t think this has anything to do with the DVD format but rather the low quality that Still Growing Up Live was filmed.  The image is very grainy and undefined.
Depth: Awesome on the Blu-ray.  In this case the DVD fall that short in this department as it does when it comes to clarity.
Black Levels: Deep and rich for both discs.
Flesh Tones: Clean and accurate for both discs.
Noise/Artifacts: Aside from the general grainy quality of the DVD concert there isn’t much to speak of this area.
Peter Gabriel - Growing Up Live + Still Growing Up Live & Unwrapped (Blu-ray Review)

Audio

Audio Formats: English: LPCM 2.0, English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish
Dynamics:  Excellent!  Particularly on the Blu-ray.  Rich and bombastic!
Low Frequency Extension:  Peter doesn’t incorporate a ton of low end in either of these concerts.  Which was kinda surprising considering when I saw him the drums boomed throughout the arena!  But then again, when I saw him he had a much larger band.  Basically there isn’t much opportunity for him to take advantage of this feature on this particular release.
Surround Sound: N/A.
Dialogue Reproduction: Peter’s lyrics are heard loud and clear on the Blu-ray.  But not as clearly on the DVD.  And as I  said earlier I think this is due primarily to poor mixing.
Peter Gabriel - Growing Up Live + Still Growing Up Live & Unwrapped (Blu-ray Review)
Extras
  • Growing Up On Tour: A Family Portrait – This film by Peter’s daughter Anna Gabriel, gives us a backstage look at the development of the tour.  What strikes me most about this particular behind the scenes film is that unlike many famous artists, Peter allows his band to speak freely about their experiences during rehearsals and the like.  I really love when you musicians open up and expose all the nuts and bolts of what goes on behind the scenes.
  • The Story of Growing Up – This film is a little bit more superficial as it covers basically the same topics as Growing Up On Tour: A Family Portrait .  I didn’t like this one quite as much as the other as this one was much more “artsy fartsy”.  Rather than allowing us to get to know the band and giving us a behind the scenes experience, it’s much more akin to a behind the scenes music video.
  • Tony Levin’s Tour Photographs – Peters long time bassist Tony Levin assembles a collection of his favorite photographs from the tour.
  • Still Growing Up Unwrapped – Much like the “family portrait” documentary still growing up unwrapped provides exclusive interview footage documenting Peter and the band on their 2004 tour. Again this one is much less intimate than the film by Anna Gabriel.  But still offers a deeper look into the inner workings of how Peter and his crew create his show.
  • Studio footage (2002)“Darkness“, “No Way Out“, “Growing Up”
  • BBC Later…With Jools Holland “Downside Up“, “Father,Son”
  • Bonus Tracks

          “In Your Eyes” – From the 2004 Still Growing Up Live tour.

          “No Self Control” – From the 1988 This Way Up world tour film ‘P.O.V’.
Peter Gabriel - Growing Up Live + Still Growing Up Live & Unwrapped (Blu-ray Review)
Summary
I highly recommend checking out both Growing Up Live and Still Growing Up Live.  Even though Still Growing Up Live doesn’t quite live up to the creative level that Peter Gabriel is known for, it’s still worth checking out if you’ve got even the SLIGHTEST interest in his work.  Poor camera work and editing aside, the band still gives 100% at ever show.  It’s really quite refreshing to see someone put just as much effort into their songwriting as they do their live shows.  Even through the TV screen you can just FEEL the love that this show-man has for all things musical!
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Growing Up Live + Still Growing Up Live & Unwrapped

is now available!

Peter Gabriel - Growing Up Live + Still Growing Up Live & Unwrapped (Blu-ray Review)

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Writer, Musician, Composer, Singer and Dancer. To sum up: I like to get jiggy with it!

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