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DVD Review: Peter Gabriel’s Growing Up Live

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I just did something I’ve only done once before. I stopped a concert before finishing it.

This is such a monumental feat for me, because I almost take it as a masochistic challenge when I find I’ve rented a really bad flick or show. It’s a contest between me and the flick – which one says uncle first?

I’m proud to say (in my own somewhat-skewed way) that I’ve outlasted many a stupid flick. I’ve yet to be able to outdo Lifetime movies… I’ll climb that mountain when I’m able. But back to my rant.

You see, I had just rented this concert DVD – Peter Gabriel’s Growing Up Live – from the local Hollywood Video. I was about to settle in for a nice two-hour concert, something I have done many times in the past. You see, I am a concert connoisseur of sorts. I’ve seen and heard many, many concert recordings in my time. It’s a passion with me; I am always fascinated at how a song metamorphoses from the calm, controlled studio environment of its youth to its adolescence and eventual adulthood on the battleground of the live stage.

Now I must admit I’m not at all familiar with Peter Gabriel’s work. I’ve heard snippets of his work on XM Radio, but it never grabbed my attention, so I would move on to find another channel or artist. This time I was bound and determined to give him a very generous shake at my attention and interest.

I lasted just over an hour. Between the bombastic, atonal ‘melodies’ of his writing, the surreal-just-for-its-own-sake photography and stage setting, or the positively bland, uninsightful lyrics, I felt not only bored, but somehow dimly insulted, as if Mr. Gabriel was trying to pull a fast one on the audience and thought he was the only one who knew.

As a concert connoisseur, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of seeing many artists from many fields and levels of popularity at work. It also makes me very sensitive to artistic bootlegging.

Now, I’m not referring to the unauthorized recordings of fame and infamy. I’m speaking of one artist mining others for ideas and then selling them as his own. I could not shake the impression that I was watching a bad knock-off of ZooTV (“The Barry Williams Show”) or PopMart (“Digging in the Dirt”).

In short: Don’t bother. Buy a U2 DVD and see the original. Then buy a Phil Collins DVD just to rub the salt in.

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About Adam V.

  • http://jpsgoddamnblog.blogspot.com JP

    Sacrelige! I saw this tour in Atlanta – the theatrics are part of Gabriel’s act, he’s very visual as a casual run through his videos will attest to. Tony Levin on bass alone was worth the admission price.

    Sorry to hear you didnt’ enjoy the concert. I will say though, “Barry Williams” is my least favorite on the “Up” CD.

  • http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=33745918 Merlinfmct87

    I tried, JP. I really, really gave it my best. But for the life of me I could not hear a melody or anything moving/profound in the lyrics.

    Yes, he is a very visual artist, I got that from the concert. That is usually something I deeply enjoy from other artists – David Bowie in particular, U2, NIN even… and others. Videos and concert shows are another dimension of the performance and it’s something wonderful to see, another dimension to the song. I do enjoy performance videos and concerts, obviously, but I do relish the chance to see something cloer to a consept video… something to give the song a setting or a backdrop.

    I just couldn’t see a rhyme or reason behind his lyrics or his music. A few of his song introductions also rubbed me the wrong way, but that’s a given considering my own head. *shrug*

    Thanks for the comment, though!

    Meriln

  • http://chronicmalcontent.sueklaus.com/ The Chronic Malcontent

    Gabriel is sometimes an acquired taste, and requires more than single listening. Maybe, if you have another hour or two, you need to rent the other concert videos to get another taste – like the Secret World DVD, or the Still Growing Up DVD. Maybe the PLAY dvd would be more to your liking, most of the Gabriel videos all in one place.

    Maybe his other music would be worth a listen, like Passion, or The Story of Ovo – maybe the film music for Rabbit Proof Fence, or Birdy. There’s a lot out there, all sorts of Gabriel music – so, you might want to give yourself another chance…

    Maybe you would like to go to his new site at Real World Remixed and mix some Real World Artists music , and upload it… there’s a lot more to Peter Gabriel than meets the ear on first hearing.

  • Nathaniel Winn

    I remember first hearing the UP album. The intro floored me. (Literally, as my buddy had cranked it!)

    I listened to it a bunch of times after that. (I don’t have the album.) I remember one song on that album as being particularly moving. I believe it featured the Fairfield Four, and was about relational conflict/drifting apart.

    That said, as much as I enjoy Peter Gabriel, the fact that I can remember a whopping two songs out of however many suggests that, while Merlin might want to check out other works, perhaps this album/tour just ain’t that great!

  • http://www.davidrhodes.org StacieDee

    Wow. I’m a bit stunned by your review. Especially as you represent yourself as someone with a great deal of musical knowledge and thus, I would assume, you’re a person who loves music.

    PG is definitely an acquired taste – aside from “So”, his music isn’t as accessible as U2 or Phil Collins. You have to make a bit of an effort, but the rewards are definitely worth it.

    “Bland, uninspired lyrics”? Really?

    With no no guilt and no shame
    No sorrow or blame
    Whatever it is
    We are all the same

    – Secret World

    Nothing fades as fast as the future
    Nothing clings like the past

    – More Than This

    Someone else mentioned “Secret World Live” in their comments. If you’re truly interested in seeing Mr. Gabriel’s appeal, you should make the effort to rent and watch that DVD. Not only was the concert and the music fantastic, but it has been recorded beautifully – it’s one of the best tour films I’ve ever seen.

    I hope you’ll give PG another try – he’s definitely worth it!

  • Paul Roy

    For someone who is such a concert connoisseur I’m surprised you are not at all familiar with Gabriel’s work. Surely you’ve heard of Genesis right? I thought this was an excellent concert and I enjoyed it more than the older Secret World Live. I guess you made some fair observations though.

  • RealToRael

    I’ll bite my lip. What is your intention of this blog entry?

    I was at the show in Los Angeles (Front row too – so no bias – HAHA) but it was a very spectacular show. From being thoroughly surprised by the Blind Boys of Alabama to the return of a minimalistic theatrical approach, Secret World was to PG what Pop Mart was to U2, I enjoyed it.

    I too am sorry about your impression, but I have never been too impressed by concert video capturing of a PG performance. It really has to be experreinced through a studio album or in person. PG tends to push the envelope on technical feats, and they do not translate well to filmed replay. When I was first dating my now wife, she was shocked to find out I paid $600 for front row Secret World tix (circa 1994?) After the show, she appologized and I converted another fan.

    I do agree people should see the U2 concert videos, mainly because I paid double to sit in the nosebleed seats at Staples than I paid for the Growing Up tour front row. But I dont think your review was warranted.

  • http://gabbacabriel david

    peter gabriel has been “visual” since early genesis and, like his songwriting, the visuals have become more complex as he grows up. perhaps a longitudinal review of his material would be beneficial. while i will never tire of “supper’s ready”, the material on ‘up’ and the production on “signal to noise” demonstrate depth and studio mastery far superior to the lyrics of bono and his ilk. i think stacidee’s comments (above) are genuinely helpful.

  • Scott Butki

    I also saw this show in L.A. – wonder if two Blogcritics were at the same show? – and thought it was amazing.

    Maybe that didn’t translate well to dvd but the cd of the tour is pretty damn good.

  • http://web.mac.com/dmax/iWeb/BP dmax

    Something changed, a few years ago. My rabid PG affection was replaced by a cynical distaste for his choreographed joy – repeated night after night.

    His first 4-5 albums are brilliant. (OK, maybe not the 1st one.) And the tours that accompanied the 4th record, and So and Us and Amnesty International were amazing, fresh, and exciting.

    But lately, the spark isn’t there. So I haven’t seen the video of this most recent tour – but I saw the show live. It wasn’t riveting, but it was pretty dang good. Maybe he’s set the bar a tad high.

    Worst moment: the boring bike ride in circles during the mandatory, dated Solsbury Hill.

    Most interesting: that cool ball that he walked around in. Would he fall off the stage and have something UNEXPECTED happen?….Alas, no. And that pretty much sums up this year’s tour.

  • RealToRael

    It would have been interesting to see PG crowd surf in the habitrail ball like he did in the old days, but probably there would be a fear of a lawsuit. Either from his larger frame or the fans unable to support weight over their shoulders.

  • http://jpsgoddamnblog.blogspot.com JP

    Ha! I must admit I was silently hoping he’d fall off his Segway. ;)