Having taken his latest album around the world for a typically elaborate tour, Peter recorded its live souvenir in Italy and issued as both an audio and a video release. While Secret World Live might best be enjoyed on a screen, where the songs are enhanced by the silly choreography of David Rhodes and Tony Levin, the album itself provides a nice overview of his most commercially successful era.
Thanks to technology, the band was able to replicate the sound of the records pretty well, but luckily they took several opportunities to stretch. “Steam” takes some time to catch fire, beginning in the more tense arrangement that the faithful would have enjoyed as the B-side “Quiet Steam”. There’s a nice interlude in the middle of the first half that travels from the even rarer “Across The River”, through “Slow Marimbas” (from Birdy!) and into a great jam on “Shaking The Tree”. We never get tired of “Solsbury Hill”, and this version is nice too. “Red Rain” and “Secret World” gain even more power in the live setting, the latter complete with a repeat of the coda. And the average consumer can finally own an extended “In Your Eyes”, stretched to over eleven minutes that never drag. Throughout, then-unknown Paula Cole, yet to wonder where all the cowboys had gone, sings all the requisite female parts and harmonies. Youssou N’Dour must not have been available, so a variety of singers attempt to replicate his wail.
While some writers have equated Secret World Live with “listening to a light show”—likely forgetting that such an insult can only be applied to half-assed Pink Floyd reviews—there’s a charm in the album that will appeal to fans. And who knows—maybe casual fans will enjoy it too.
Peter Gabriel Secret World Live (1994)—3½