Genesis revisited

IQ's Martin Orford takes a new look at a classic band

Well, I must admit that I wasnít planning to go and see Genesis on their recent tour; their latest album 'Calling All Stations' didnít do much for me initially and after repeated listens, Iím afraid it still doesnít. However I never can resist a bit of good old-fashioned ligging, so when good pal, Prog-friendly DJ (check out his Saturday evening show on Wey Valley FM if ever youíre in North East Hampshire), and all round good chap Badger called me up and offered me a free ticket, it would have been churlish indeed to refuse. And so it was that with several of the other Wey Valley folk we wound our way towards Earls Court, a gig venue that I must admit I havenít been to before.

Arriving just seconds before the start, it was good to see that most seats were filled - surely a relief to the band. As the lights dimmed and the band broke into Land Of Confusion, suspicions that this was going to be a celebration of Genesisí recent past were confirmed. Still, the band sounded purposeful and powerful, and the folk in the row behind us were showing a lot more spirit than one would associate with a Genesis audience by giving the security people a right old verbal bashing for telling them to sit down! Good luck to them - far too many of these unnecessary apes at gigs these days.

As the show continued, a few older numbers were aired, including The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and Carpet Crawl. Whilst the performance was again spirited and energetic, something was wrong, as these songs just didnít sparkle the way they should. It took a couple of numbers before it dawned on me what was wrong. Genesis had changed the key of all the Collins and Gabriel songs, tuning them all down by two semitones. Consequently, everything that used to be in E was now in D, and so on. Furthermore all the falsetto parts of vocal tunes that Gabriel and Collins used to do had been studiously altered so that the songs could be sung in full voice. It all sounded rather weird, and considering new singer Ray Wilson appeared to be in good voice all evening and singing comfortably within his range it is a complete mystery to me why these changes had been made. I cannot believe that such capable singer as Ray Wilson would not be able to sing occasional falsetto parts.

With all the older material now in rather dreary keys, the gig might have been dire indeed without the superb drumming of Nir Zidkyahu, who played the older songs noticeably faster than Chester Thompson and Phil Collins. I used to think that Genesis always had a tendency to play things too slowly, but the excellent new Israeli drummer has improved this situation immeasurably. The new Guitarist/bassist (whose name I didnít catch, but I believe heís from Ireland) was also a plus point, and displayed much more feel and emotion than the chronically uninteresting Darryl Stuermer. I always thought that Stuermer absolutely murdered the classic solo in Firth of Fifth with all that horrible widdly jazz-rock stuff, and although I will always prefer the Steve Hackett version (having once been lucky enough to play this song live with the great man himself), the new boy did a very good job on a truncated version of the old classic.

Most eyes were of course on Ray Wilson, surely the man with the worst (even if extremely well paid) job in the world; having to follow not one, but two international singing stars. Actually, I thought that he did pretty well (apart from one monumental gaffe, but more of that later), although I thought that trying to get an onstage rapport going with the inscrutable Banks and Rutherford seemed a little ambitious. Still he seemed relaxed and genuinely friendly towards the audience, and the material from the latest album came across much more powerfully than on the CD.

Visually, the show was a familiar Vari-Lights extravaganza as Genesis shows invariably are, but the three video screens at the back were very effective, if a little under-used. Biggest disappointment was the four penguin-like shapes dotted around the stage, which turned out to be hydraulically operated lighting towers. Whilst these could have been effective had they had some really wizzy lights or lasers on top, it soon became clear that apart from raising up and down, they didnít actually do much else. Unfortunately in the raised position, they looked like the product of a bizarre breeding between the periscopes from the Teletubbies and the flexible tube from a giant Hoover. Not the best value effect Iíve ever seen in a stage show.

The band played for almost two and a half hours, and although most of the material was from recent albums, there were several highlights, including particularly good versions of Domino and Home By The Sea. A short 'unplugged' set featuring all the band members on acoustic guitars was also particularly charming, and performances of the opening section of Supperís Ready and Dancing With The Moonlit Knight were unanimously well received. With the set ending on a high note with an up-tempo Turn It On Again, the band were rocking out nicely, and we were all eagerly awaiting some storming encores. What followed was a bitter disappointment. First encore was Throwing It All Away, which although a nice mid-tempo ballad is hardly the sort of thing that gets an audience on its feet. Worse was to follow. Second (and last) encore turned out to be I Canít Dance, perhaps one of the worst songs the band have ever written. Although I can well understand why Genesis would want to showcase their more recent material, surely the atmospheric Fading Lights or even something up-tempo like Abacab would have been a better bet. Still, I Canít Dance was not without its top comedy moment, as Ray Wilson plucked a sturdy lass called Michelle from the audience, and proceeded to illustrate the lyrical content by attempting to dance around the stage with her in a most ungainly manner. The good lady clearly had another agenda in mind, and having firmly grasped the hapless lead singerís buttocks, the formidable Michelle was clearly in no mood to let go. With much coaxing she did eventually release her vice-like grip, but it would take a brave man indeed to risk that stunt again!

All in all, a workmanlike performance from a good solid band, but somewhat lacking in the magic which previous line-ups used to convey. Maybe Genesis ought to consider whether the addition of perhaps one more member from the bandís halcyon years might arrest their apparent decline. Certainly, at the moment, the line-up resembles a very good band playing Genesis covers, and their thousands of diehard fans expect more than that.

Martin's review originally appeared in the IQ Newsletter and was published on DPRP with his kind permission. For more information about the IQ Fanclub and the Newsletter, e-mail The Lush Attic


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