Peter Gabriel has long been a proponent of cutting-edge technology and grand theatrics. On his 2003 North American summer tour, he once again pushed the proverbial envelope, thinking and acting outside the antiquated orbits of the traditional multimedia mega-conglomerates. The artist has teamed up with online distributors www.TheMusic.com to present the Encore Collection. This series allows enthusiasts the ability to legally obtain CD copies of every concert on the 19-date run. This is a definite win-win for both the musician and consumer, as these limited-edition releases eliminate the market for inferior bootlegs, which often sport spurious (at best) sound. Each show was professionally documented by Ben Findlay, who has been onboard since Us (1992), and is a staff recording engineer at Gabriel's Real World studios. Joining the vocalist on-stage for 07 06 03 - Montreal, QC Bell Centre is a five-piece instrumental ensemble with Ged Lynch (drums/percussion/congas), David Rhodes (guitars/backing vocal), Rachel Z (keyboards/backing vocals), Tony Levin (bass/electric cello/backing vocals), and Richard Evans (mandolin/guitars/dobro/whistles/backing vocals). In a nod to well-deserved nepotism, Gabriel's daughter Melanie (backing vocals), provides some understated yet simply stunning contributions. While each is a unique presentation in and of itself, the set list primarily contsists of the same core material, spanning the breadth of Gabriel's solo career. Each two-disc release is complete and unedited, with superior sonics derived straight from the live mixing desk [read: soundboard]. The packaging is simple yet effective, consisting of a double-pocket soft cardboard jacket with tour design, date, and venue on the front, and the running order for the CDs on the rear. Die-hard completists will want to be aware of the existence of the Encore Collectors' Box, which gathers all the shows into one place. A Deluxe Road Case was also made available -- sporting a metal alloy shell, tour book, and an autograph from the artist himself. However, within a matter of weeks the Road Case quickly sold out of the 150 individually numbered and hand-assembled compendiums. The replacement of "San Jacinto" in the slot normally occupied by "Shock the Monkey" make the Canadian dates desirable for those wishing to experience some of the variations to the standard running order. The inclusion of "Biko" is also notable as it was performed only sporadically.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer