Synopsis: Filmed in Modena, Italy over a span of two nights in November 1993 as part of Peter Gabriel’s acclaimed “Secret World Live” tour, this concert is elaborately presented and choreographed, with two stages joined by a narrow pier.
Newly restored and remastered from the original film, Secret World Live can be seen and heard in the best possible quality for the first time in HD. Songs featured in the performance include: Come Talk To Me, Steam, 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, Sledgehammer, Secret World, Don’t Give Up, In Your Eyes and The Feeling Begins.
‘Secret World Live’ is the show that opened up my ears to Peter Gabriel. Before then, the only thing I had really heard was ‘So’. And, unlike the vast majority of people, I was seriously underwhelmed with it. Truth be told, I didn’t like it much. Not even “Sledgehammer”. And especially not “Big Time”.
I didn’t like it then, and I still don’t care for it much now – even though I now consider myself a fan of Peter Gabriel’s music. The turning point for me, after many years of unwavering disinterest, was firstly this concert DVD, and then the breathtakingly brilliant ‘Passion’ – the companion album to Martin Scorcese’s ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’.
…which, let’s face it, I wouldn’t have even considered if not for my enjoyment of this concert film, which was recorded in Italy in November of 1993.
The only reason I even picked up this DVD was due to its tantalizing price of 12$, brand new, at a time when DVDs were still quite pricey. Experimenting based on low price points has been a mixed blessing, of course (the Norah Jones DVD, for instance, didn’t win me over with her deer-in-headlights stage “presence” ), but it has permitted me to discover a few artists (and films) that I would otherwise not ever have bothered with.
‘Secret World Live’ showcases Gabriel still at the top of his powers, commercially. By then he was past the massive success of ‘So’, but it now afforded him a much larger playground to play in, what with more money (thus more gadgets to complement his stagecraft), and a wider audience overall. Nothing could stop Gabriel, and his ambitions are spotlighted in many parts of the concert, including a segment in which a headcam offers us an amusing, über close-up look at the singer in action.
It may all seem very quaint by today’s standards, but one needs to remember that the show was put together before the digital age broke down audio-video barriers. His video displays were high-end then, and his use of multiple mics, double stages, ramps, theatrical props, and the like, were all part of what was at the time one of the most talked-about shows in rock music. Anyone who’s seen a Peter Gabriel show then remains in awe of what he delivered.
Admittedly, even I was won over. This second viewing didn’t have the same impact as it had the first time (some decade prior… things have progressed considerably since), but I was left largely impressed with what I saw. Although Gabriel did far too much “white man dancing” and forward hip-thrusting for my taste, and his band included a few goofy Caucasians with bald pates and stunted fashion sense, he offered a dynamic, quirky but intriguing spectacle that likely broke language barriers.
What I find of particular interest about this show is two-fold:
-for starters, each track is introduced with a short video “tag” of sorts, that clues the viewer into which song is coming next without explicitly saying it. This was interesting because it was unique, but also because it offered the filmmakers a chance to take the best performances of the two shows filmed for this concert film. By cutting it up in bits and pieces, they were able to collage the best show they had on offer.
-secondly, I found the audio on the blu-ray (I’ve since upgraded from the DVD ) far too clean for my taste; you would almost think it was a studio recording. It’s quite possible that Gabriel re-recorded some tracks, as he did for his ‘Plays Live’ 2CD set, or maybe it is just the way the concerts were filmed, but half the time I felt like I was listening to a mismatched soundtrack – even though everything was synched properly. I can’t really explain it, but it didn’t sound like we were there with the crowd, in the arena. In fact, I could just put the Blu-ray on as background music for guests and no one would notice that it’s supposed to be live. Clearly, that’s another way of saying that the remastering is exceptional. Even if the mix is wonky.
All this to say that I think that ‘Secret World Live’ remains an excellent example of Peter Gabriel’s abilities as a showman. I’d highly recommend the DVD/BD to fans and novices alike: not only does it serve up some of Gabriel’s most popular tracks, but it offers many simple, but ingenious, tricks of the trade that, to this day, put a smile on one’s face. And, given that the film was given new life with its current remaster, it should be a relatively fail-safe proposition for rock music fans of all types.