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Hamish Hamilton
Peter Gabriel
Writing Credits:
Peter Gabriel

This spectacular live concert, filmed at London's O2 using the latest Ultra High Definition 4K technology, captures Peter Gabriel's celebration of the 25th anniversary of his landmark album So . To mark the event Gabriel reunited his original So touring band from 1986/87 and for the very first time fans saw them play the multi-platinum selling album in its entirety. Whilst the core of the performance is the So album, there is so much more to the concert with unfinished, previously unreleased and re-imagined songs sitting effortlessly alongside classic hits reflecting what a multi-dimensional artist Peter Gabriel is. With innovative lighting and staging, Back To Front offers a visual and narrative feast that puts the viewer inside a concert like never before.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English LPCM Stereo
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 135 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 6/24/2014

• “The Visual Approach” Featurette
• Booklet


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Peter Gabriel: Back to Front [Blu-Ray] (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 17, 2014)

When we last visited Peter Gabriel on home video, we did so via a concert program from a tour that revolved around 1986’s So. With Gabriel’s newest Blu-ray, we find a concert program… from a tour that revolved around 1986’s So.

In the 12 years since he released his last “rock album” in 2002, Gabriel has found plenty of ways to distract himself from the creation of new material, and he used the 25th anniversary of So as another excuse. Gabriel reassembled the same band that toured behind So in 1987 and went on the road to play the album in its entirety.

That made the 2012-14 Back to Front Tour different from the 1986-87 So Tour, as he didn’t perform the whole record in its heyday. The nine So songs offer the centerpiece of Back to Front, but we get 12 other tunes as well.

Front launches with an acoustic set for the first four songs. Gabriel opens with the previously unreleased “Daddy Long Legs” before he plays “unplugged” versions of “Come Talk to Me” (from 1992’s Us), “Shock the Monkey” (1982’s Security) and “Family Snapshot” (1980’s Peter Gabriel). After that, we get full band renditions of “Digging in the Dirt” (Us), “Secret World” (Us), “The Family and the Fishing Net” (Security), “No Self Control” (Peter Gabriel 1980), “Solsbury Hill” (1977’s Peter Gabriel) and “Show Yourself” (new).

This leads us to the So portion of the show, as that album’s nine tracks finish the main set. For the encore, Gabriel plays “The Tower That Ate People” (2000’s OVO) and “Biko” (Peter Gabriel 1980).

The Back to Front tour opened in North American in September 2012 and continues to play; as I write in July 2014, the final show looks to finish in about five months. The performances found on this Blu-ray come from two nights at London’s O2 Arena in December 2013.

I saw the tour at the conclusion of its 16-date North American run in October 2012 and thought the show seemed… okay. At his best, Gabriel can provide amazing live performances, but something about the Back to Front concert just didn’t quite connect with me.

Maybe I just wasn’t wild about the fact it so strongly looked backwards. Throughout his career, Gabriel moved ahead and tried to innovate, so his decision to continually regurgitate aspects of his past continues to disappoint me. C’mon Pete – it’s time for something new!

If I detach my desire for Gabriel to forge ahead, though, I can better approach Front and appreciate it on its own merits. Gabriel doesn’t provide the dynamic live presence he did in his younger days; even when compared to shows from 2003, he appears less active.

Getting old sucks, so I can’t blame Gabriel for that, and he remains a strong presence despite his lower level of activity. The man knows how to headline a stage and this experience/prowess shows well. Pete may look like a long-tenured philosophy professor at a liberal arts college – and at some point, he and Billy Joel became the same person physically - but he still maintains a good presence as a live performer.

And Gabriel sounds solid, too, though I can’t help but question how much of the vocals actually come from the O2 concert. When I reviewed the 1987 Athens Blu-ray, it seemed clear that Gabriel had re-recorded a lot of his singing, and that appears likely here as well.

Having seen him live not that long before this show’s recording, I can say that Gabriel’s voice remains good, and that 2012 concert experience allows me to hold out some hope that he didn’t go too nuts in terms of “fixing” the recordings. Nonetheless, I’d still bet that much of Gabriel’s singing got redone, and that might hold true for the rest of the musicians as well.

Whatever the case, the songs sound good and get nice performances here. Gabriel fans won’t find a lot of invigorating reinterpretations; even the “unplugged” tracks don’t reinvent wheels. Nonetheless, the tracks represent the material in a satisfying manner, and it’s especially good to hear some of the So tracks live for the first time.

For the most part, Front goes with a simple and fairly effective visual presentation. Director Hamish Hamilton depicts events concisely and without too much quick cutting or gimmicks. Some exceptions occur, as songs like “The Family and the Fishing New” go for unusual tactics such as artificial TV interference. I could live without that, but since most of the show comes across in a straightforward manner, I won’t complain too much.

I could live without the number of audience shots, though. Front eschews these for most of its first portion but they become more prominent as the concert progresses, especially during crowd pleasers like “Solsbury Hill” and “Sledgehammer”. They add nothing to the presentation and become an annoyance.

Despite that, I view Back to Front as an enjoyable trot through notable aspects of Peter Gabriel’s career. It doesn’t find the performer at the top of his game but it shows that he can still put on a fine concert in his sixties.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A-/ Bonus D+

Peter Gabriel: Back to Front appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The visuals didn’t dazzle but they held up well.

Sharpness mostly seemed solid. Occasionally, wide shots came across as a little soft and ill defined. However, those examples appeared infrequently and did little to distract from the rest of the presentation, which usually looked concise and detailed. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and I also detected no signs of edge enhancement. Source flaws looked absent.

Most of the color variation came from lighting, as Gabriel and band tended toward dark garb. Heck, even the colored lights remained fairly restricted; this wasn’t a monochromatic affair, but it lacked prominent colors outside of a few exceptions like “Red Rain”. Within those confines, though, the hues looked well developed and accurate.

Blacks were deep and dense, while low-light shots came across as clear and appropriately visible. I think Front could’ve looked better, but the visuals were still strong.

As one expects from a concert presentation, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundfield focused on the front, where the elements showed strong stereo imaging. Pete’s vocals appeared set in the middle, while the instruments were accurately located and they demonstrated nice breadth and delineation. I could distinguish the various instruments with ease, as they were placed in a natural and clear manner. They also blended together smoothly to create a forward soundstage that consistently created a real and involving setting.

As for the surrounds, they broadened to a reasonable degree. While they didn’t include much unique audio, they embellished the forward channels in an enveloping way. For instance, during “Family Snapshot”, the back speakers offered an eerie reverb for part of Gabriel’s vocals. We also got the usual crowd noise from the surrounds. They weren’t dynamic partners, but they suited the style of the program.

Audio quality sounded solid across the board. Pete’s vocals demonstrated a vivid presence that put them strongly out front. He always appeared appropriately natural and accurate, and the clarity of his singing was impressive.

The rest of the track also showed fine warmth and a dynamic tone. Instruments remained crisp and vivid during the concert. Bass response seemed generally deep and rich, and highs were clean and bright. The various components appeared crisp and the entire presentation provided a vibrant and lively piece of work.

In terms of extras, we find a featurette called The Visual Process. In this six-minute, 13-second piece, we hear from Peter Gabriel and concert/lighting designer Rob Sinclair. They give us an overview about the show’s creation and presentation. Though short, the program includes some useful insights.

Finally, we get a 16-page booklet. This provides an essay from Mark Beaumont as well as photos and credits. It completes the set in a satisfying manner.

About 45 years into his career, Peter Gabriel remains a strong concert performer, and we see his current skill set in Back to Front Live in London. The show comes with some flaws and doesn’t match Gabriel’s best work, but it still delivers an enjoyable piece. The Blu-ray comes with strong picture and audio but lacks notable bonus materials. I don’t regard that as a big drawback, for Front boasts a well-produced two-hour-plus concert that will please fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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