The Musical Box
Selling England by the Pound
May 21st, 2004
De Doelen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

By Derk van Mourik


Chances are you are one of a vast majority of people who have never seen Genesis live in the early seventies, but still would have liked to have had a piece of that action. What are you going to do?

Genesis live is history, Genesis live with Peter Gabriel is legend, and the stories about those days have over the years acquired almost mythical proportions. Any rumours still existing about a possible farewell reunion tour of the original 1971-1975 cast can be safely referred to the land of fables.

So what options are left to experience the magic of the quintessential era? The meagre amount of footage that exists is of low quality and incomplete, and in any case film cannot capture a live performance in such a way that it can completely take you back to when you were actually there, let alone if you weren't, which, frankly, is the case with most of us when it comes to Genesis live with PG.

Then there was a time when people fantasized about building time machines to take them back to the early seventies, or theorized about programming Genesis live peformances into holodecks after watching Star Trek.

Well, either holodeck technology has advanced beyond my wildest dreams, of perhaps I entered a vast time machine when I walked into the Doelen venue two weeks back, but what I saw performed on the stage that night came frighteningly close to what is my perception of a show out of Genesis' 1973 Selling England by the Pound tour, courtesy of The Musical Box.

Tribute band is too meagre a description for these Canadians, as they completely recreate the original show. Setlist, backdrops, costumes, between-song bantering, performances, and affectations have been meticulously copied from their illustrious examples. What I personally found most astonishing is drummer Martin Levac: not only does he drum like Phil Collins, he sings like Phil Collins, he's left handed like Phil Collins is, his Phil Collins accent is spot on, and if that wasn't enough, he even looks like Phil Collins, albeit a bit older one!

On to the show. The setlist was authentic, which meant the inclusion of the relatively weak The Battle Of Epping Forest, which starts wandering rather aimlessly soon after it begins, and never really ends. The theatrics make this one bearable, though, with Denis "PG" Gagné depicting the battle between two gangs of Northern London hoodlums in "his" trademark pariodical style.

However, the rest of the set was made up of the strongest work that Genesis created in this period. From the killer opener Watcher of the Skies, with the majestic unfolding of the wings, the band went straight into a selection of Selling England of the Pound. The two best of these, The Cinema Show and Firth Of Fifth, are paradoxically also the two most sober ones in terms of theatrics. Firth of Fifth sported the phenomenal piano opening, which Genesis themselves omitted more often than not from their live performances. Kudos to David "Tony" Myers for flawlessly playing this difficult piece.

Gagné was given another chance to display his mastery of the PG theatric style in the band's title song The Musical Box, in which he wasn't afraid to explicitly portray some of PG's more sexually tinted performances. This is no show for the under age, people!

Next up was More Fool Me, which has never really grabbed me on record. However, Martin Levac, dressed in white dungarees, with white suit-jacket for the occasion ("now I look a little less like a painter"), and supported only by Mike Rutherford look-a-like Sébastien Lamothe on 12-string, gave such a convincing performance of this ditty that it became one of the evening's highlights for me.

The main set was closed by early Genesis' signature song, the epic to start all epics, Supper's Ready. A description of this song reads like a summary of what I've already written above, so I won't bother. Suffice to say that there are very few tracks which are better suited to leave an audience completely overwhelmed while the band walks off stage. They returned for one encore, the oldie The Knife, a heavy rocker characterized by the special effects coming out of the guitar of Denis "Hackett" Champoux. And then we were free to get back home.

For two hours The Musical Box had managed to transport us back in time, to experience what a Genesis show thirty years ago would have looked and sounded like. I have seen quite a number of bands performing Genesis material, but without a doubt The Musical Box come closest to reproducing the whole works. I heartily recommend catching one of their shows. If you missed them on this tour, the band will be returning with their The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway show next year.

Setlist:

Watcher Of The Skies
Dancing With The Moonlit Knight
The Cinema Show
I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
Firth Of Fifth
The Musical Box
More Fool Me
The Battle Of Epping Forest
Supper's Ready

The Knife

 

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