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Peter Gabriel: Back to Front - Live in London (Deluxe Limited Blu-Ray)

John Kelman By

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Peter Gabriel
Back to Front: Live in London (Deluxe Limited Blu-Ray)
Real World/Eagle Vision
2014

Peter Gabriel has, for most of his career, been an artist who has never looked back. Still, the past few years have seen him reevaluating his large repertoire, between orchestral interpretations documented on New Blood: Live in London (Real World/Eagle Entertainment, 2012) and the Back to Front tour that has, since that time, celebrated the 25th anniversary of the release of So (Charisma, 1986)—the album that turned him from cult hero to (now) pop culture elder statesman. So turned out to be the best-selling record of the singer/songwriter's career, going three times platinum in the UK, five times platinum in the US, with hit songs like "Sledgehammer," whose groundbreaking video with Ardman Animations won the ex-Genesis front man MTV's 1987 Top Music Video Award and Best British Video at the 1987 Brit Awards.

Back to Front: Live in London documents Gabriel's globe-trotting tour that reunited the group that was documented in both the So: 25th Anniversary Immersion Box (Real World, 2012) and, later, Live in Athens 1987: The Full Concert (Real World/Eagle Eye Media, 2013): longstanding guitarist David Rhodes and bassist Tony Levin; drummer Manu Katche, who last toured with Gabriel for the tour in support of So's follow-up, Us (Real World, 1992), and the recently reissued as Secret World Live (Real World/Eagle Entertainment, 2012); and keyboardist/guitarist David Sancious. For the Back to Front tour, Gabriel fleshed out the band with two of the best singers that have graced his stage: Jennie Abrahamson and Linnea Olson, who also adds cello to one of two new songs, "Show Yourself."

Back to Front: Live in London comes in four versions: single-disc DVD and Blu-Ray releases; and Deluxe Limited DVD and Blu-Ray editions which include, in addition to the full concert of the single-disc versions (and a bonus interview feature on the tour's stunning visuals), a second video disc of the same format with the theatrical release (as well as two bonus videos: a "DNA Mashup" of "In Your Eyes" and "FanCam recording of "This is the Picture (Excellent Birds)," omitted from the theatrical program), plus two CDs containing the full concert.

While the full concert is the one to watch again and again, it's worthwhile watching the theatrical version, which includes some interview footage with everyone in the band. The decision to cut the theatrical version down, not just chopping five tunes from the complete set list, but most importantly three songs from the second set (a performance of So from start to finish, plus two encores), is certainly questionable, especially since "That Voice Again" and "Big Time" have rarely been performed live before—certainly never found on any previously released live album or video—leaving the darkly curious "We Do What We're Told (Miligram's 37)" as the only song from So that exists in the theatrical version as a song from the album that's never been heard (or, at least, previously documented) before in concert. "Red Rain," "Sledgehammer," "Mercy Street," "Don't Give Up" and, in particular, an extended version of "In Your Eyes" that, here, features guest African vocalist Daby Toure, are all songs that have been in regular rotation on tours subsequent to 1987, straight through to his most recent Growing Up tour in support of Up (Real World, 2002).

While some of the interview footage is a tad self-congratulatory, it is heartfelt and reveals the wonderful camaraderie that still clearly exists amongst what many believe to be the best touring band Gabriel ever had 25 years after the fact. The performance footage reveals that a quarter century may have passed, with everyone looking a little older (with the exception of the ever-bald-headed and mustachioed Levin, who just never appears to age), but the intrinsic chemistry remains. Gabriel, perhaps, shows more signs of aging than most: now a gray haired, largely bald-headed man of 64 who, in an interview around the time of the Growing Up tour, talked about the challenges of doing stage shows as he used to with, as he self-effacingly referred to, his "expanding girth." True, he may be a bigger man than the scrawny youth who wore makeup, flower heads and other accoutrement with Genesis back in the early-to-mid-'70s, but as he moves around the stage on a killer version of "No Self Control," from Peter Gabriel 3 (Charisma, 1983, commonly known as Melt), which reprises the arrangement as well as updated versions of the boom-driven lights that attacked him at the song's climax of the 1987 tour, it's clear that he's still as graceful as ever.

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