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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 4/3/03

Peter Gabriel: Secret World Live
1994 (2003) - Real World (Universal Music)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

Peter Gabriel: Secret World Live Program Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): B-/C+

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): B/A

Specs and Features

102 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.78:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, timelapse footage of Berlin stage set-up (3 mins, 4x3, DD 2.0), The Making of Secret World Live featurette (15 mins, 4x3, DD 2.0), video gallery of tour photos with Steam (Quiet Version) audio (6 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), Growing Up Live tour preview featurette (8 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), animated program-themed menus with music, song access (15 songs - see song listing below), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0, DTS 5.1), subtitles: none

If I were to choose my own personal soundtrack, selecting music that provided the best accompaniment to the events of my life so far, the voice singing on that soundtrack would belong to Peter Gabriel.

Gabriel's music has always elicited a strong emotional response in me. You don't so much listen to it as experience it. Throughout his long career, from his early days as the original lead singer for Genesis and continuing through to his latest album, Up, Gabriel has always used music as a way to explore a variety of different cultural sounds... as well as his own personal demons. He's never sought to create Top 40 commercial successes, although he has occasionally found them inadvertently. Instead, he seems to constantly challenge himself creatively, finding interesting and exciting new sounds to make his own. Gabriel's work is ergonomic and earthy, with pulsing rhythms, captivating melodies and chiseled, haunting lyrics that bewitch and enthrall. Such is definitely the case with the 15 songs performed on Secret World Live.

Filmed in November 1993, over two shows in Modena, Italy, Secret World Live presents slices of Gabriel's work up to the Us album. The highly-symbolic staging of the tour was conceived by Gabriel and Robert Lepage, and was directed by François Girard (better known for his 1998 film, The Red Violin). Gabriel and his band, which includes Manu Katché (drums), Shankar (violin), Paula Cole (vocals) and longtime collaborators Tony Levin (bass) and David Rhodes (guitar), move back and forth between two stages (one of which is "in the round"), all the while interacting with various set pieces and supported by multimedia on a giant revolving video screen above. The resulting performance is both theatrical and intimate at the same time. It's also a highly emotional journey from start to finish. The male/female dynamic is very much being explored throughout this concert, both musically and visually. Gabriel's haunting voice blends perfectly with Cole's on such songs as Blood of Eden and Don't Give Up. In addition, there are simmering versions of favorites like San Jacinto and Secret World. And the show ends with a joyous rendition of In Your Eyes, featuring a host of special guest performers gathered from the realm of world music. If you've never seen a Peter Gabriel concert before, you're definitely in for a treat here. And if you have, I'm preaching to the choir.

The video quality on this DVD isn't going to impress everyone, but I can tell you that I'm pretty happy with it overall. The program is presented in anamorphic widescreen, which is something of a surprise for a major label concert DVD. I have the original laserdisc release of this concert, and from direct comparisons, it looks to me like the original full frame image has been cropped to make this widescreen version. Surprisingly, I don't have a problem with that - very little has been lost and the concert is well served by the widescreen ratio. The original film footage is somewhat grainy, which is very much a part of the character of the program. Unfortunately, that grain translates on DVD to an abundance of MPEG-2 digital compression artifacting. But again, it's not really a problem. It's never a distraction and it's part of the character of the film. And, having lived with the laserdisc version, I can tell you that both the color and the contrast are dramatically improved on this new DVD version. So while you're not likely to use this disc to demo your anamorphic display, the video here is more than adequate for the material.

The audio, on the other hand, really stands out on this disc. You're provided with not only Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0, but also DTS 5.1. Both surround tracks are excellent, providing very nice fidelity and exceptional clarity. But, even more than one might usually expect, the DTS is the far superior of the two. These 5.1 mixes are surprisingly different in character. The Dolby mix is more subdued, while the DTS track is far more active and dynamic. There's a greater degree of play in the surrounds on the DTS track, which allows for a more immersive listening experience. It's also more natural sounding, presenting a smoother and richer soundstage. Bass response is excellent on both tracks, but the DTS is definitely my preferred audio choice.

As far as extras, Secret World Live offers a few items, but nothing really ground breaking. You get a 15-minute documentary look behind-the-scenes at the creation of the stage tour, anchored by an interview with Gabriel himself. He also provides a similar (if shorter) preview of his recent Growing Up Live tour. A brief time-lapse video of the Secret World stage setup is included as well. But the best extra of the bunch is a 6-minute video of tour photographs set to a Dolby Digital 2.0 presentation of Gabriel's Steam (Quiet Version). Would more extras have been nice? Sure. But what we get is good enough for me.

I've been waiting for this concert on DVD for so long, that just holding it in my hand is enough to make me a happy boy. The fact that it's anamorphic and boasts 5.1 sound in DTS is just icing on the cake. Secret World Live is one of the most joyous and artistic concert presentations you'll ever have the pleasure to experience. If you're a fan of Gabriel, or live music performances in general, this show is not to be missed.

Song Listing

Come Talk to Me
Across the River
Slow Marimbas
Shaking the Tree
Blood of Eden
San Jacinto
Kiss That Frog
Washing of the Water
Solsbury Hill
Digging in the Dirt
Secret World
Don't Give Up
In Your Eyes

Bill Hunt

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