FILM REVIEW: Ex-Genesis co-founder Peter Gabriel is ‘Back to Front’ with concert film

Fans will have a front-row seat for a live performance by Peter Gabriel from his 2013 concert at The O2 in London in the concert film “Peter Gabriel: Back to Front.”
Fans will have a front-row seat for a live performance by Peter Gabriel from his 2013 concert at The O2 in London in the concert film “Peter Gabriel: Back to Front.” Photo provided

Having never found complacency on the sidelines, Peter Gabriel has taken his definitive eccentricities to the masses, throwing himself on the big screen with the concert film “Back to Front.”

Premiering at the UEC Theater 12 and in movie houses across the country for one night only April 23, the prog-rock legend will perform his iconic 1986 album “So” in its entirety with his original touring band.

Shot in October at the O2 Arena in London, the film highlights some of Gabriel’s most well-known hits and offers insight via narration and interviews from the former Genesis frontman and his accompanying musicians.

As crisp as ever, it seems that Gabriel and his bandmates haven’t lost a step since their 1980s heyday. Clearly excited to be performing together again, the energy and excitement are felt as they tear through some of the most recognizable music of the past 30 years.

Gabriel opens with the new piano ballad “Obut,” then transitions into a stripped-down rendition of “Shock the Monkey,” providing a tame table setting before cutting into the main courses.

The highlight of “Back to Front” is the almost 10-minute performance of Gabriel’s most popular hit, “In Your Eyes.” Etched into popular culture thanks to a boom box held high above John Cusack’s scrawny shoulders in the 1989 film “Say Anything,” this song and this performance are breathtaking. Pulling out all of the stops, the stage comes to life led by a beaming and out-of-character Gabriel, who has enough charisma to single-handedly power the elaborate choreographed lighting pulsating behind him.

Then again, the same criticisms that plagued Gabriel back in the 1980s sprout up here and there, but are for the most part kept at bay. His self-seriousness and pretension are clearly evident but are not distracting enough to make the viewing experience unpleasant. A few eye-rolls never killed anybody.

Given his stoic nature and age, Gabriel, 64, couldn’t be blamed for slowing things down a bit, but that wouldn’t make for a great concert film, which is exactly what we have here. Naturally, seeing Gabriel perform live in concert is unrivaled, however what director Hamish Hamilton has given us with “Back to Front” is far and away the next best thing.

Much like watching a sporting event from the comfort of your couch, there’s a sort of intimacy that unfolds when watching this concert onscreen. Despite the clear jubilation of the crowd, they aren’t privy to the up-close emotions and creative energy emanating from the musicians and dancers that the cameras expertly share.

Perfect for both the die-hard Peter Gabriel/Genesis fan and the causal observer only fleetingly familiar with the material, “Back to Front” does an excellent job of capturing this untamable, creative artist stubbornly cursed with an incredible ability to craft some of the finest pop songs ever recorded.