DVD Review: Peter Gabriel, New Blood Live In London

My immediate reaction upon hearing that another popular longstanding music giant is cobbling together orchestrated versions of their hits to serve up on a fancy plate to longtime fans is a big loud sigh. Normally, this is a sign that things are getting stagnant and that new ingredients are needed to spice up the stew and get people listening again. I start sweating, worrying that I'll be riding in an elevator one day with "The Girl From Ipanema" oozing softly through the speakers and then BLAM out comes a kinder, gentler version of my once face-melting rock anthem. Sad face all around.

Anyway, if there's anyone who might be able to pull something like this off with resounding success, it would be Peter Gabriel. Over the course of his career, the sixty-one-year-old former Genesis front man and solo dynamo has transformed himself from yellow flower wearing lunatic into a global music phenomenon. I was correct not to underestimate him.

Peter Gabriel's New Blood Live In London was filmed over two nights in March of 2011 at London's Hammersmith Apollo minus guitar, bass and drums and featuring the forty-six members of his New Blood Orchestra--and it is fantastic. I actually got up out of my seat to get closer to the speakers so I could soak up the new arrangements and further enjoy Gabriel's vocals which still make the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention.

Because this is Peter Gabriel, there has to be some big show visuals and there are plenty of screens flashing images and film to accompany each song. What I love is that as impressive as all this is, Gabriel makes sure to enjoy himself, not letting the seriousness of the big orchestra or the new arrangement overshadow the joy of performing these songs. He is having fun here. Maybe not as much fun as the time I saw him in concert and he rode his bike in an endless circle on stage for the duration of two songs, but fun nonetheless.

There will be people who grumble a little about how much some of the beloved old classics have been reworked but the life breathed into these newly crafted versions makes you sit and listen with rapt attention and realize just how spectacularly written these songs were in the first place.

Peter Gabriel's New Blood Live In London is available now.

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