DirectorHamish Hamilton, Anna Gabriel
Release Date(s)2003 (October 14, 2016)
Studio(s)Real World (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: A
Fans of his work will know that Peter Gabriel is not only a fine singer, songwriter, and musician, but also an incredible showman. His tours are legendary for their innovative staging and multimedia enhancement – you’re attending not just a concert but a visual and musical experience. Among these, his 1994 Secret World Live tour was heralded as a high point of creativity (we’ve reviewed the 2012 Blu-ray release here). So when Gabriel finally went out on tour in 2003 (for the first time in a decade) in support of his then new album, Up, fans had high expectations… and Gabriel did not disappoint. If anything, Growing Up Live surpassed his previous tours, with staging and set pieces designed by the renown theater director Robert Lepage (whose work has included productions for Cirque du Soleil).
I had the good fortune of attending Gabriel’s Los Angeles stop on this tour at the Staples Center (sitting, as it happens, two seats behind director Ridley Scott and composer Hans Zimmer), and the experience was quite simply extraordinary. The stage was in-the-round and rotated during the performance. At various times during the show, Gabriel and his band members, including longtime collaborators Tony Levin and David Rhodes (and Gabriel’s daughter Melanie), emerged from below the stage, moved around it, and performed above it via a circular overhead truss. Gabriel and his daughter even sang portions of Downside Up while walking inverted suspended from the truss. Within it, a massive glowing inflatable egg served as an image projection centerpiece, eventually opening to reveal a giant spherical orb, that finally lowering to the stage to become a transparent Zorb in which Gabriel rolled and bounced around the stage during Growing Up. Good heavens, The Blind Boys from Alabama even appeared to sing background on Sky Blue! The show remains one of the most amazing concert performances I’ve ever seen in person. And while the 2003 DVD release of the tour’s Milan, Italy performance (directed by Hamish Hamilton, a veteran of many a Super Bowl halftime shows and also U2’s thrilling Elevation Live from Boston DVD) was certainly very good, the sonic tour-de-force offered by Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new 2-disc Blu-ray edition captures that live experience perfectly.
The concert is presented on Blu-ray (on the first disc in this set) in 1080p HD video at the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Image quality is excellent on the whole, crisp without ever seeming edgy. Black levels are good and colors are rich and vibrant. The only strike against the image is that it appears that one of the many cameras used to shoot the event was out of calibration, so when they cut to it (only rarely and for craned wide shots) the image looks a little laggy. But one could almost accept this as a stylistic conceit. It’s a minor issue.
The audio, on the other hand, is magnificent. Options are available in 48/24 LPCM 2.0 stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and it’s definitely the DTS you want to select. The mix is big, wide, and full, with stunning clarity and spaciousness. It also has terrific midrange bite and a satisfying low end foundation. The DTS track really sounds terrific; it’s one of the best concert Blu-ray mixes I’ve heard in a very long time. Turn it up to 11 and you could almost close your eyes and imagine you’re actually there in the audience in the Fila Forum in Milan, Italy, where the concert was recorded (on May 12 and 13, 2003). Note that you can see the complete track listing for the concert below.
Bonus Features on the Blu-ray include Anna Gabriel’s behind-the-scenes documentary Growing Up on Tour: A Family Portrait (SD – 4x3 – 39:03), The Story of Growing Up featurette (SD – 16x9 – 9:40), and a video image gallery set to music called Tony Levin’s Tour Photos (SD – 16x9 – 5:05). But that’s not all: The Blu-ray also includes the complete Still Growing Up Unwrapped documentary film (SD – 16x9 – 76:49) which features a number of concert song performances (see the list below, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio), as well as studio rehearsal performances of Darkness, No Way Out, and Growing Up (all SD and 4x3 – about 7 minutes each), and video of Gabriel and his band performing Downside Up and Father, Son live on the BBC’s Later… with Jools Holland (both SD and 16x9 – 4-6 minutes each).
The second disc is a DVD that features the complete Still Growing Up Live concert film (SD – 16x9 – 87:04 – see track listing below), with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, and DTS 5.1 surround options. The overall A/V quality here is very good by the standards of SD DVD. Extras on the DVD include a bonus version of In Your Eyes recorded during the Still Growing Up Live tour (SD – 16x9 – 11:47), No Self Control from the 1988 This Way Up tour film, P.O.V. (SD – 16x9 – 6:01), and Disc Credits.
Missing from the original 2003 DVD version of Growing Up Live is the Noodle Interactive version of Growing Up for Mac & PC desktop computers – probably not a big loss to most of you. The good news is that everything from the original 2005 DVD version of Still Growing Up Live & Unwrapped is included in this set. On the other hand, the original 2003 DVD version of Growing Up on Tour: A Family Portrait included some additional extras that aren’t here, among them Anna Gabriel’s My Head Sounds Like That short film, the promo video for The Barry Williams Show directed by Sean Penn, The Making of The Barry Williams Show behind-the-scenes featurette, the Shooting the Programme video of photo shoot outtakes, and finally the Peter Gabriel Solo Performance from The Newport International Film Festival. So if you have that DVD, you’ll definitely want to keep it (if you don’t have a copy, you can find it here on Amazon).
One quick note about the packaging for this set: It’s pictured above (and on Amazon) in a traditional Blu-ray case, but the version I received for review from Eagle Rock (and probably all the final product) actually came in a 2-disc CD-style cardboard and plastic Digipack. Each disc has its own liner notes booklet in the package. I mention this just so you’re aware of it and aren’t surprised when you finally get your hands on a copy yourself.
If you’re like me and are a longtime fan of Peter Gabriel, or if you just love great concert performances on disc, Eagle Rock’s new Blu-ray version of Growing Up Live & Unwapped + Still Growing Up Live is absolutely a must-have release. It’s also a no-brainer, given its $20 price on Amazon at the moment, especially since the disc effectively replaces not just one but two DVDs you probably already have in your collection, and also gives you a little more content as a bonus. Frankly, this is the easiest BD upgrade recommendation I’ve made in a good long while. Don’t miss it.
- Bill Hunt