Rejuvenated Genesis Excite Hartford

Genesis at the Hartford Civic Center, 09/16/07. All photos courtesy of my girl, taken with her Sony T100 compact camera.

Considering how my last post was meant to lower expectations, this is fantastic news. I am very happy to report that whatever lack of energy or enthusiasm Genesis seemed to have in YouTube videos posted in Europe, the band has arrived in North America with their best performances in 20 years.

That's right. They are better than they were in 1992-1993. They were absolutely fantastic last night. Oh, and a mind-blowing drum duet didn't hurt their show, either. Last night could have been a candidate for the DVD. It was that good.

Let's get the weak points of their performance out of the way:

  • Daryl Sturmer still plucks annoying, extra notes into the Firth of Fifth solo.
  • They still perform Hold On My Heart.
  • Medleys still have the effect of pleasing the long-time fans in the audience and annoying them at the same time.
  • Tony's keyboard setup is very good and compact overall. However, while the low-range sounds (organ, mellotron, bass synth) are awesome and inspiring, his high-range sounds (mini moog, In The Cage solo) sound cheap and underwhelming.

And really, everything else was great. Even if you hate Throwing It All Away, it was one of the most amusing and fun parts of the evening, with candid videos of the audience members on the big video wall. Follow You Follow Me was appropriately sentimental, with the video wall showing animations of some of their album covers (Nursery Cryme, Selling England By The Pound, Trick of the Tail, Duke, and We Can't Dance) along with archival photos of the band dating back to 1970.

Their performance of Mama was a highlight, as it was their best performance of the song in 20 years.

It was the band's technical superiority, musicianship, humor, and interaction with the audience that made this a truly great show. Genesis are back!

Phil had to take it easy on his voice in Europe. Here, he is belting out the songs, restraining himself only occasionally, and certainly not on the very old songs.

The set list remains the same from the European leg:

Behind The Lines / Duke’s End (medley)
Turn It On Again
No Son Of Mine
Land Of Confusion
In The Cage (complete) / The Cinema Show (truncated) / Duke’s Travels (truncated)
Hold On My Heart
Home By The Sea
Follow You Follow Me
Firth Of Fifth (truncated) / I Know What I Like (complete)
Throwing It All Away
Drum Duet
Los Endos
Tonight Tonight Tonight (truncated) / Invisible Touch (complete)
I Can’t Dance
The Carpet Crawlers

That's about a two-and-a-half hour show. They took the stage at 20:30 (the scheduled start was 20:00).

Surely I would have loved to hear more material from the great 1976-1982 box set that was released this spring. I would have wanted to hear a song from Abacab, a complete song from Duke, and another song from And Then There Were Three. But essentially, they took the 1992 set list, dropped the long 70s medley in favor of three small medleys (two of which included complete songs, In The Cage and I Know What I Like), kept the biggest hits, cut the number of songs from WCD from six to three, kept Domino and Home By The Sea, and then squeezed-in Ripples, Follow You Follow Me, Afteglow, Los Endos, and Carpet Crawlers.

I should be excited to see so many old songs squeezed in. But I feel let-down because these are old songs they have done before (if you are old enough to remember). I'm not really into Afterglow. I love Ripples, and it was their best song of the night, along with Mama. Follow You Follow Me is good, but what would really make me excited is any (and I mean ANY) other song from And Then There Were Three.

And there were two surprises (surprises if you don't read all the Genesis blogs, that is). First, Daryl Sturmer used a beautiful Les Paul for Ripples and Carpet Crawlers. The warmer sound of the Les Paul was very welcome, and according to Archetype, it was the first time he had ever seen Daryl play a Les Paul in a Genesis show. When I closed my eyes during the Ripples solo, I pictured this guy. Daryl did a fine job when he used the Les Paul and remained faithful to the way Steve would have played it. Otherwise, Daryl did not respect Mr. Hackett's music.

The second surprise was the drum duet. Everyone knew it was going to be good. I simply had no idea that it would be faster, more athletic, and more impressive than the 1992/1993 version. Phil and Chester are simply incredible. Their speed, technique, stunts, and the resulting reverb through the arena were all breathtaking. It was the Cirque du Soleil of drum duets. You just have to see it for yourself.

Maybe Genesis were rusty in Europe. Maybe Phil did complain about being on-tour. Perhaps he is still bitching. But their hard work to get back out there is paying off. What I saw in Hartford on Sunday night was a band that is getting stronger, and could be preparing for a bigger tour in the near future. They still have tricks up their sleeves and seem to know that the fans are going to expect more old songs the next time around.

Well done, lads, well done. That shit I said earlier? I take it all back.

The purpose of this tour is to get the rust out and get back into form. Apparently they had gotten back together last year in case Peter Gabriel was able to join them and work on a new live production of The Lamb. Of course that fell through, but they decided to tour anyway. We can only hope that this tour is in preparation of Peter Gabriel's eventual return. Archetype dreams of a reunion of the classic 5-member lineup for a live performance of The Lamb in Central Park next summer or in 2009.

So long as they are all alive, the demand for a reunion will remain.

It would be incredible, but I have to keep my expectations in-check. Peter seems to be fine with the idea, provided it does not involve recording a new album or taking too much time away from his future solo albums (he has enough material for two new albums, and is working hard on the one he hoped to release two years ago).

The hurdle in getting the classic Genesis lineup back together is the 30 year-old spat between keyboardist Tony Banks and former lead guitarist Steve Hackett. That's my opinion, but consider how Tony talks about Steve. Here is how I imagine it:

Hi, I'm Tony Banks. I founded Genesis in 1967 along with Mike Rutherford and Peter Gabriel back in high school. Members have come and gone, but one thing remains constant - this band belongs to me and Mike. Let's make that clear.

"It's my band. Mine. I didn't have to go to Phil. He had to come back to me!!!11"

Now regarding that classic lineup. The way I see it, Peter had a good reason to go. He got married young. Had a baby soon afterword. He had new pressures of family life and removed himself from the band for his own good. Although he didn't tell us he was leaving until we were in the middle of our 1975 tour, I forgive him. Besides, I could see it coming. I can ready my friends fairly well. I knew Peter was distracted and was going to go. It was a sad time. But Mike and I decided to keep Genesis going. Phil and Steve could come along or not.

Now as for Steve, his departure was different. He wanted to contribute more acoustic songs to our two post-Peter albums. But I felt that we had some singles that deserved to be committed to wax. It's what the fans wanted. It's what the majority of us wanted. I like to think that Genesis is a democracy, and Steve would just have to wait to get more of his songs on our albums. Still, he got songwriting credits for a third of the songs on his last album with us. And looking back, Blood on the Rooftops is one of the best Genesis songs ever. Steve and Phil wrote it themselves.

But Steve couldn't wait. He was writing more songs and had more material. So he stopped-by the studio one day in 1977 and told me and Mike that he was leaving the band. And that was that. He was gone. And Mike and I were left with a crisis. Then Phil walked in and he was clueless about what had just happened. Mike and I once again had to decide the future of Genesis.

Now being the quiet gentleman that I am, I didn't hold a grudge. Oh, I did make sure that Steve didn't appear clarly on the cover of our 1977 live album. The photo I selected had him in a dark shadow most fans would not notice. But he and I are still friends. I still see Steve in concert. I always go backstage to shake his hand and say hi. He's not an egotistical front man. I'm certainly not. It is interesting how he tries his best to sing songs with some good results. I guess he has found his happy place. So I'd be, um, surprised if he came back and performed with us.

From my perspective, once you quit, you quit and can't come back. You have to preserve your pride and not ever get caught with your tail between your legs or something. That's how we upper classes do it. Never talk out your problems, or talk to people we don't like. If I didn't like you, I wouldn't be talking. Cheers.

Now that is something Tony would never say out loud. He keeps it all inside. The silent treatment means you are out. I used to admire that about Tony. He is still my favorite member of Genesis. He lacks the technique and strength of Keith Emerson, but is arguably a more successful composer and songwriter. His solos have evolved over the last 35 years, and I like them all. Tony's great. And I hope someone gives him another chance to do a television theme song or movie soundtrack.

But from the clues he gives in his interviews, I think it is Tony who is blocking the big reunion. Let's see some real Tony quotes regarding a possible 5-member reunion:

There has never really been anything organized...It tends to come from other people more than us, really. I never rule out any kind of reunion thing, it could always happen. We’re all good friends, and we get-on ok. It would be fun to revisit some of these early things perhaps, but there has really never been a plan...I’m not itching to do it, particularly, but I’m not dismissing it either.

That was Tony in 2004. And what did Steve say last year?

Unfortunately I'm not in a position to comment on things...and of course the ideal time would be [now] if there was a band reformation but I don't think anyone is any the wiser. The band isn't any the wiser than the fans are and so with regards to that we have all given our pitch and let's just say that most of us are hoping it is going to come off. I would love to be able to say 'Yes, I'll be there on Thursday!' It is the question on everyone's lips, including mine. If it doesn't happen, I won't be to blame.

Hmmmm. We have someone who would like it to happen, and someone who isn't too crazy about the idea. I think the signs pointing to Tony as being the sticky wicket.

""Well, we managed to sack the lot of you!" - Tony to all former members of Genesis in 1999. At the time, that included Phil.

Now I have to be respectful of the artists I admire. Chances are, a classic reunion will not happen. But surely the fans are dreaming of this the same way I dreamt of the Red Sox winning the world series in my lifetime. And this has been written about by authors far more passionate and informed than I am.

So I will close this post with the obvious - if you are a fan of Genesis and admire their work, you have to get yourself to one of their remaining North American shows. They are well worth your time and money.