1981 was a transitional year for Genesis. It was a year that found them straddling the line between the more experimental music of the Peter Gabriel and earlier Phil Collins years and the more pop-oriented music to come. Nowhere was this more evident than on their album Abacab, which featured lengthy prog rock tracks such as "Dodo/Lurker" and "Me & Sarah Jane," as well as pop songs such as "No Reply At All" and "Man On The Corner." While on tour for Abacab, the band recorded a live album, Three Sides Live and a corresponding video of the same name. Previously only available digitally as a DVD in the band's Movie Box 1981-2007, the video is being released as a standalone Blu-ray for the first time.
The Blu-ray mixes concert footage with interviews and backstage scenes, opening during the pre-show ritual at New York's Nassau Coliseum. The show opens with Duke's "Behind The Lines," and finds Phil Collins sharing drum duties with Chester Thompson before running to the front of the stage for his vocals. While Collins was more of a front man by this point, he would frequently take to the drums during the band's longer instrumental passages.
Another Duke track, "Misunderstanding," finds an animated Collins delivering a passionate vocal. As this song was reportedly about his marital woes of the time, it was a case of life mimicking art as Collins' poured his heart into the vocals.
Four Abacab songs follow, sandwiched in between interviews with Collins talking about the album and whether the band would work with Gabriel again. The songs all rock harder live than on record and touring member, Daryl Stuermer, really fills in the sound on guitar and bass, mimicking the horn section on "No Reply At All" on guitar. "Dodo/Lurker" is heavy live, with Collins getting into the different voices the songs require and "Abacab" packs a much bigger punch on stage than on record, with Collins and Thompson sharing drum duties for the song's extended outro. "Who Dunnit?" shows the band hadn't lost their sense of humor. A truly bizarre song, it finds Collins wearing goggles and a hat during the vocal presentation.
The Gabriel era is represented here by the "In The Cage" medley. While this was a highlight of the show (and in subsequent tours by the Collins-fronted band) and Collins does an admirable job on vocals, it is the only song from that era represented in the video. As this is a reissue of the DVD, only in HD, that is not surprising, but it was an opportunity for the band to expand the release if the footage still exists.
Fans wanting a concert-only version of the show will be disappointed -- it is still intercut with backstage footage and interviews. However, the original 16mm footage has been restored and looks great in HD. Thankfully, the original 4:3 aspect ratio has been preserved as well. The video is in 1080i High Definition 4:3 pillar boxed for the main show and looks good, considering its age. Audio options include LPCM Stereo and DTS HD Master Audio 96K. The Blu-ray includes seven audio-only full-length bonus tracks with "Fountain Of Salmacis" and "Follow You Follow Me" being standouts.
Genesis live in 1981 was a musical force. Collins was coming into his own as a front man and the band delivered on both the prog and pop fronts. While it would be nice to have a concert-only version, the Three Sides Live Blu-ray is a fine live document of this important era for the band.