Peter Gabriel

Growing Up Live

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Recorded in May 2003 at a single show in the Round in Milan, Italy, this documents Peter Gabriel's worldwide tour following his Up release. As such, it not surprisingly relies heavily on that disc, with seven of the 17 tracks originating from the album. Only about five tunes in this show can be considered "hits" (conspicuously absent is anything from his second and third albums) but most won't miss the many omissions since the performance is so consistently breathtaking. Gabriel is known for his elaborate, high-tech presentations and this certainly has its share of surprises. To reveal them would be unfair, since much of the excitement in watching a Gabriel show is seeing how his stage act -- here modernized for an in-the-round setting -- unfurls and reflects the songs. But suffice it to say, that unless you were there -- and even then -- Gabriel has plenty of tricks up his baggy black sleeves. Although he begins modestly, playing stark piano alone on an empty stage for a moving "Here Comes the Flood," the ever-present and very visible orange-suited crew, which appears and disappears though trap doors in the fake floor, quickly adds the full band. Split screens display these techs looking bored under the stage, preparing for the next song, a video technique that is overused throughout the concert's 2 1/4 hour running time. Otherwise, the camera work is excellent, if a bit hyperactive at times. Vocal overdubs are kept to a minimum and the 5.1 surround mix is astonishingly vibrant and detailed. One new song, "Animal Nation," is played, but it is not one of Gabriel's best and at nearly 15 minutes overstays its welcome. Also, the band introductions, which are chanted by the audience after the tune, might have been fun if you were there, but wear thin quickly. Still, this is a beautifully and imaginatively shot production caught in front of an enthusiastic crowd. Gabriel sounds great, as do the bandmembers, many of whom, like bassist Tony Levin and guitarist David Rhodes, are longtime associates. It's a must for any fan of the British star and a riveting performance even for those unfamiliar with his work.