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Peter Gabriel - Live In Athens (DVD)

The pinnacle of the This Way Up tour

as an extended and restored concert film

Fans had to wait a long time for the Live In Athens 1987 concert film DVD. Though it had been announced more than six years ago more and more people began to wonder whether the world would ever see the footage from the Lykabettus Theatre in Athens, Greece, that had been used for the P.O.V. (Point Of View) video cassette in 1990, in digital and remastered form.

As it turns out it has not become an extended new form of P.O.V. - all the video bits that provided variety as well as distraction were left out for the new version. Now the fan is treated to a pure concert with all its strong and all its weaker moments. The restorers went to great lengths to re-do the original cuts of the P.O.V. video. They had to move into uncharted territory in those places where concert footage moved into video inserts as well as for the four additional songs Family Snapshot, Intruder, The Family And The Fishing Net and Here Comes The Flood. They have done it without obvious breaks.

The beginning

The start menu makes a first impression with its simplicity as well as the background audio loop. We first hear winding sounds from a tape machine, then there is a kind of studio atmosphere. Peter Gabriel's voice is asking „Okay, is everyone ready?“, then, „Camera's running, you're set?“. Someone calls „We're ready“ from the background and off we go with an audience clapping rhythmically and an intimation of the Sledgehammer intro with lots of echo. The audio and track menu have similar sounds. The latter uses the line „we will walk – hold the line“ from San Jacinto with newly mixed sounds. All this is well done and heightens the expectations.

The sound

The instruments are distributed across the surround speakers in a more or less conventional way. As with many live surround mixes the music comes from the front speakers most of the time whereas the rear speakers are for echo and audience sounds and, occasionally, the backing keyboards. This may not be spectacular, but it does not distract from the video. Where it does it underlines particular moments, e.g. the ending of San Jacinto, as a kind of special effect.

The DTS sound is full and clear, every instrument can be identified in the mix. Bass and bass drums have lots of oomph in the low bass so that the subwoofer is quite busy. Peter's vocals do not match his lip movements at all times – a trace of reworking?
Anyway, it should be noted that samples were part of the live experience even in 1987. They did not used samples or the studio recording, though, for the mighty beats of Intruder, where Manu Katché's light-handed drumming and the powerful sound we hear are strangely at odds. What they did was apply the famous gated reverb effect that was invented for the studio version of Intruder to the drum track of the new live version so that it now sounds as on the album. This is no big deal as the effect has long since become a preset in every echo unit. Biko is also mixed in a peculiar way. The song begins as usual, but we soon hear additional percussion from the African guest musicians – long before they are in the shot. When Youssou N'Dour and company enter the stage, Manu Katché's monotonous drum pattern takes on a different sound with much more echo in the surround speakers. This effect intensifies towards the finale when the audience are asked to sing along. That could have been done a bit more discreetly.

The video

The video is excellent, sharp and, despite the rather dark stage, well lit. This is to the detriment of the black level, but on the up side you can see details in the darker areas, too. The new 16:9 widescreen format opens up the view though it has been cropped at the top and the bottom from the 4:3 ratio of P.O.V. - it has been done in such a clever fashion that you do not get the impression that anything was missing. The images seem less claustrophobic, and the long shots give you a good overall impression with much improved details.

PoV 1990                                      Live in Athens 2012

The Film

Despite the MTV aesthetics one would see everywhere in 1987 there are very few hectic cuts. Peter's fight with the light dollies in No Self Control is more impressive than on P.O.V. – and when the lights seem to scan his prone body for life signs in Mercy Street there is something extremely threatening to them that conveys Peter's search for mercy very authentically. Without the video bits that were cut in on P.O.V. the camera gets almost too close to his desperation.
A minor annoyance are a couple of continuity flaws that reveal we are getting to see more than one show. Peter's white jacket, for example, is quite torn to pieces during his stagedive, and the pieces remain in the audience – yet moments later we see him wearing a pristine white jacket for Sledgehammer as if nothing happened. Another thing the reviewer noticed thanks to the improved video quality is that the African dancer seems to be changing her top several times during In Your Eyes – depending on the shot it is either white or rainbow-coloured.

The concert ends again with an abruptly stopping tape machine right after Peter's „thank you“. Ethereal sounds accompany the credits, and we get to see a photo of the studio building in Bath for a moment.

All in all...

Certainly not a perfect concert film because it is still incomplete, but if does offer a far more intense and gripping experience than before now that the video bits have been removed and both audio and video have been improved immensely. A pity this film is only available in the expensive So25 Deluxe Edition and not on Blu-ray.

by Tom Morgenstern

English by Martin Klinkhardt


Peter Gabriel - P.O.V. - video review

Peter Gabriel - Live In Athens - 2CD review

All about the So25 jubilee