Primarily shot at the Savoy Theatre in New York on November 28, 1981 and the next night at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, Three Sides Live was a promotional film tied in with that year’s North American tour to promote the new Genesis studio album, Abacab. First released on VHS to coincide with the live album of the same name in 1982 , as a laser disc in 1991, the film’s original DVD release was as part of the 2009 limited edition box set, The Movie Box 1981-2007. Filmed in 16mm, Three Sides Live has now been fully restored and is finally available on Blu-ray and DVD as a standalone edition.
Roughly speaking, Three Sides Live is approximately 2/3 concert film, 1/3 a documentary full of interviews with the trio Genesis had become, namely Tony Banks (keyboards, backing vocals), Phil Collins (drums, lead vocals), and Mike Rutherford (guitar, bass, backing vocals). On stage, Genesis was supplemented with the very capable Daryl Stuermer (guitar, bass) and Chester Thompson (drums), the latter playing most of the drum parts while Collins stood center stage as the band’s frontman.
If you like this era of Genesis, it’s impossible to complain about most of the musical selections, the bulk of which are naturally from Abacab. A handful of songs are from 1980’s Duke, including the first three songs of the concert, “Behind The Lines,” “Duchess,” “Misunderstanding,” and the set’s closer, “Turn It On Again.” At one point, Genesis pays homage to their art-rock time with Peter Gabriel with a rather uninspired medley based on 1974’s The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway titled “In The Cage”/”The Cinema Show”/”The Colony Of Slippermen.” This medley segues into “Afterglow” from 1976’s Wind And Wuthering, the final album with original guitarist Steve Hackett.
But be warned. Some of the songs are heard in full, some are broken up with interspersed interviews, and some are essentially excerpts surrounded by more interviews. In these conversations with both professional critics like Hugh Fielder from the music weekly Sounds and call-in questions from fans on a radio show, the band discusses how Abacab was a group effort with contributions by Collins, Banks, and Rutherford synthesized into fully developed songs. That way, their individual songs could be used on separate solo albums. They discuss using drum boxes, taking over their own production duties, the ability to take more time in the studio, audience responses to their changes, and adding the sound of the Earth, Wind, and Fire horns to “No Reply At All.”
Elsewhere on Three Sides Live, we hear Banks’ “Me & Sarah Jane” and a very short snippet of Collins’ “Man On The Corner.” Of course, not all the offerings are nuggets. I suspect there are few devotees of the percussive “Who Dunnit?” But music lovers should also enjoy the seven full-length audio-only bonus tracks including “Behind The Lines,” “Duchess,” “Me & Sarah Jane,” “Man On The Corner,” “One For The Vine,” “Fountain Of Salmacis” and “Follow You, Follow Me.” (The latter three did not appear in the film.)
The grainy analog visuals of Three Sides Live are a tad limited due to the original 16 mm source film. This is most evident in the black bar cropped sides, as a true widescreen edition would not be workable. But we do see some of the Genesis stagecraft like the use of dry ice and pink lights during “Afterglow,” and Collins taking off his shirt midway in the concert. Still, the pre-digital film looks vibrant enough and adds to the feel of this movie being a statement of who and what Genesis were at that time as they moved from experimental prog rock to commercial pop.
For many, Abacab was the zenith of the Genesis canon, so the 133 minutes of Three Sides Live is a document of a very creative period for Collins, Banks, and Rutherford. If you liked Abacab and don’t already own a previous version of this film, Three Sides Live is full of well-produced music and numerous insights into how it came about.
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