Recorded over two nights in October 2013 at London's The O2, Back to Front presents Peter Gabriel in concert during his two-year tour commemorating So, which was played in its entirety. Supported by the musicians that had backed him on the So tour, bassist Tony Levin, drummer Manu Katche, David Sancious, and guitarist David Rhodes, the assembled songs document an outstanding performance of audio and visual delights.
Before the show began, Gabriel announced the show would be presented in three parts like a meal, with an appetizer, the main course, and dessert. The appetizer was a short, acoustic set of songs with the lights up. Showing great confidence, likely bolstered by the fact that he was going to give the people what they wanted later, he opened with the new song, "Daddy Long Legs," just himself on keyboards and Levin on bass. The rest of the band along with back-up singers Jennie Abrahamson and Linnea Olsson then came out for the remainder of the show, starting with "Come Talk To Me" with Sancious on accordion. Gabriel understandably can’t hit the high notes he used to but his voice sounds strong here and throughout the performance
"Family Snapshot" transitions into the electric portion of the show. House lights go down and the stage lights go up. The images on the video screens at the back of stage are monochromatic during this portion of the show and some appear directly on the Blu-ray. I was grateful to see/hear my favorite Gabriel song, "Digging in the Dirt" made the set list, which finds the band performing at their funkiest.
Gabriel is a storyteller and I am always intrigued by his tales about relationships and individuals and how he tells them through the lyrics and arrangements of his songs, such as the deep cuts from early in his solo career like the haunting "The Family and the Fishing Net" and "No Self Control." "Solisbury Hill" earned the biggest audience reaction up to this point in the show as seen from the many shots of ecstatic audience members singing along, particularly when Gabriel would throw it to them for the "boom boom boom." The joy the song exudes is evidenced in the choreography as Gabriel begins to skip, childlike in a circle, followed by Rhodes and Levin.
So begins with a burst of red on the screens and continues through "Red Rain". Levin starts the bassline for "Sledgehammer" and the crowd hums along as Gabriel keeps the beat with his microphone. Abrahamson has the daunting task of replacing Kate Bush on "Don't Give Up" and does and admirable job. His anthemic love song, "In Your Eyes" closes the set with Daby Toure filling in for Youssou N'Dour and even though Toure sings in another language the emotion he evokes is clear.
After the encore opens with the obscure "The Tower That Ate People," which finds the band rocking at their hardest, Gabriel ends the night with his traditional closer, "Biko," with the band members stepping away and leaving it up to the audience to carry on the song.
The Blu-ray presents a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at 1.85:1 and it looks marvelous. Colors are vivid and the blacks are rich. There's great depth in the shots, which deliver fine details. Thanks to Hamish Hamilton's direction, viewers are able to appreciate the theatricality that goes into a Gabriel performance, such as the visual design, the lighting, and the choreography.
The audio comes in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM stereo, with the former being my preference. The vocals, both lead and background, are all quite and never over powered by this powerful ensemble. "Shock the Monkey" provides an example of the track's great clarity when the bass and guitar trade licks. The bass drum is very strong throughout, delivering its own boom boom boom. The surrounds fill quite nicely with the music, wrapping the listener in a sonic embrace. The only extra is Visual Style (HD, 6 min) where Gabriel and lighting designer Rob Sinclair briefly discuss working on the project.
Peter Gabriel and Eagle Rock Entertainment have released another winner with Back to Front. Highly recommended for those who were lucky enough to attend the concert and even more so for those who missed out.