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Peter Gabriel's spectacular live show Growing Up Live now on DVD

It had been known for quite some time, but no one could await it. The release of Peter Gabriel’s Growing Up concert DVD is one of the potential highlights in this year. In November it is finally released. The world’s most spectacular stage show has been recorded onto DVD and can be bought by everyone. Can such a release live up to the expectations?

The (hi)story

Growing Up is a visual experience. The show was planned through to the last detail and left little room for spontaneity. Now and then Peter still managed to surprise the “repeated offenders”. Of course there is no room for anecdotes on a concert DVD based on two shows in Milan. Or is there?


1As in 1993/1994, the two performances in Milan were picked for recording and release. When the North American shows were released as official CDs publishing the Growing Up tour on DVD was the next logical step. It seems the time of the normal live album has passed. It is not only Peter Gabriel’s Secret World Live that returned to the Top 100 in the DVD charts. The importance of DVDs in the album charts keeps growing, too.

That’s no reason at all for Peter Gabriel to produce something by halves. His usual perfectionism makes it all the more surprising that the DVD reached the stores less than half a year after the tour.

Outer appearance

Growing Up Live looks dang good. A fine digipak in a slipcase using the familiar design that accompanied us throughout the tour and that can also be found on the Encore Series CDs. In difference to other DVD releases this one is a single DVD. It had been planned for a long time and people feared that Gabriel would leave out several songs the way he did it on Secret World Live (albeit for other reasons). 

The visual side

The show was filmed in 16:9. This has long become the standard. Most us have a 16:9 tv set at home or plan on getting one. The video quality is brilliant (unlike the Secret World Live DVD), but of course this time around the team could plan for the requirements of DVD technology. The image is artistically tampered with, but there is not interruption between songs. Everything is very smooth. The show was filmed by a large number of cameras and the DVD offers a fine mix of totals, close-ups and audience point of views.

The sound

Peter goes for the big option here. One can choose from the dated Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and the new but rapidly spreading dts sound (Digital Theatre System). The sound lives up to the expectations. Crystal clear, delicious, voluminous, just great!

The extras

There are the credits with a Growing Up remix as background music. There is also a nine minute tour documentary and a slideshow with photos taken by Tony Levin, accompanied by a different Elbow Remix of More Than This. The images cannot be accessed individually, but they form a video sequence.
The tour documentary is different from the one on the Secret World Live DVD. There is current interview material where Peter talks about the preparations and about his experiences during the show parts of the Growing Up tour.

The main set

3 Shortened set? Forget it. Except for No Way Out and Come Talk To Me, which were both played once each at the two nights in Milan, Gabriel performed the original set of the Growing Up tour. We get to see the concert with a set list that was normal also at the German shows, except, of course, for the German version of Jetzt Kommt Die Flut which was Here Comes The Flood in Milan. The introductions were all done in English, there are only a few words of Italian here and there. Not all introductions were included, the remarks before Red Rain are missing as is the political introduction for Signal To Noise. Some of the introductions have been overdubbed. More about that later.

The show

If you’ve seen the show more than once you know just how much is to be seen there, how many things went by unnoticed on the first show or were noticed only on the third night. This DVD cannot change that. Growing Up is a stimulus overload. Just jump on and enjoy the ride.

The DVD also offers another approach. It becomes part of the show instead of just documenting it. There are many different camera perspectives, but there’s more than that. During Sledgehammer the colours change and the image contrast is very high – the manipulations of the video become so apparent for The Barry Williams Show that the sign “Do Not Adjust Your Set” pops up. The tv screen does not only turn into Peter’s camera, but we also regularly see a colour chart or a ninefold Peter. All in all this is a journey into the DVD or into the production of the show that leaves the borders of a tour documentary far behind. This is intentional but may not be to everyone’s liking. There are frequent moments when the image is split horizontally and the upper half shows the whole stage while the lower half shows the Orange Men busily preparing the next song. Sometimes there are aerial shots, as it were, sometimes images filmed from out of the audience, from below and from the side. Only rarely do we see images from the camera that would be used to show Peter on the big screens during the show. Occasionally the image slows down before the perspective changes again.

5 There are jumps in the video during Digging In the Dirt, sudden zooms and switches in the p.o.v. Some of these effects are fascinating and enliven the 134 minutes of the show. Peter and Melanie are often filmed upside-down on Downside Up so that the viewer has the impression that they are walking rightside up. Some more long shots of the performers hanging from the sky stage would have been useful. It is good to see that less effects can be more – compare Sky Blue. Few German fans will have seen The Blind Boys Of Alabama perform, but now they have been immortalized on DVD.
Peter is known for doing the introductions in the local language. On the Secret World Tour for example, he speaks Italian. This was what most people would have expected for Growing Up live, too, but all the introductions are in English, some are missing. Only a handful of Italian words come out of the speakers..

Less, probably, than came from Gabriel’s lips. He often cannot be seen during the introductions which gives the impression that some overdubbings took place. The introduction to Downside Up is a good example. It is quite possible that Peter wanted to use English introductions because of the world-wide release. However that may be, the intros are all in easily comprehensible English. Some overdubs are noticable, though.
The final part of Sledgehammer (when Peter dances with Rachel Z and others) is missing. It was simply cut out; at least it is very unlikely that it was played this way. The Growing Up intro was drastically shortened, we do not see Peter worming his way into the ball. It is known that Growing Up was performed twice at the second night in Milan. The first two versions were presumably not good enough. In the meantime it has turned out that Peter introduced lots of “improvements”. He also explained that they had hired an old military hangar in order to have an authentic livesound for the overdubs.
Now and again there are scenes from the backstage, or rather “below-stage” area, and we see the Orange Men deflate the Zorb ball or cleaning the guitars. The split screen is often used for these scenes so that we see what happens onstage on the upper half of the screen and the Orange Men on the lower half.

22 As far as the sound is concerned, Peter’s voice is much louder than at the shows themselves while the drumsounds are slightly softer. His vocals always come out of the center speaker (in the surround mixes, that is) so that readjustments can be made at the receiver or the DVD player. Peter also experimented with the surround effects in the mix. In similar products the music comes out of the three front speakers, but not on this DVD. Sledgehammer is borne by a strong bass sound from the rear speakers. Peter’s voice circles in The Barry Williams Show. During the show the stage was the central point – with this DVD, the watcher is in the middle.

The Milan audience is, as nobody doubted, a very special one for Peter Gabriel. The beginnings of the sung band introduction after Animal Nation were made by a group of Italian fans who attended the Berlin show. Milan celebrates Peter Gabriel more than any other city. During the Sledgehammer intro the crowd sings the melody, Peter is celebrated with “Peter, Peter” chants. One may have hoped for a German concert on DVD, but Milan had absolutely the right audience!

The end titles are a last surprise. They show Gabriel in his Zorb ball rolling through the city centre of Milan - and the surprised faces of the lookers-on.

All in all

Peter admits to cheating, the watcher is glued to the screen, the sound is terrific, the effects by far exceed everything one would expect from a live DVD. Has Peter Gabriel gone too far? Well, that is a question everyone will have to decide for themselves. One thing is for sure: Growing Up is not a carelessly assembled concert DVD, but a real surround experience which brings back memories while also allowing a different look at the show. The images are fantastic, the audience ecstatic, the sound terrific, the effects breathtaking. In the end, it turns out that, more than anything else, Growing Up Live means SHOWTIME!

by Christian Gerhardts

translated by Martin Klinkhardt