It's not often I go to a gig and don't film most of it, but for the sake of last night's spectacle, it seemed fitting to just sit back and marvel. Seeing Genesis was something that resided atop my bucket list for the best part of fifteen years, and I'm delighted to say that last night was a dream fulfilled.
First things first though, let's address the elephant in the room, or rather the weary chap wearing glasses who spent the show in a chair, with no thanks to a spate of nasty health problems, one Phil Collins. Or rather - why don't I address him properly - Phil Collins LVO, the frontman of Genesis might sound a little better. Whilst Collins may be plagued by some horrible issues, it didn't stop him, and indeed Tony, Mike, Daryl, and Nic, as well as Daniel and Patrick on backing vocals to put on a good show. Yes, age has unfortunately taken a piece of Phil's talents away in the vocal department, but things seemed an awful lot stronger as the show progressed, with certain elements reaching the quality of the 2007 shows. I've also got to stress that my second excursion to Birmingham was even better than the first.
This slightly lighter and albeit strained vocal did take a little bit of getting used to first of all, as Turn It On Again did reveal a couple of cracks on the longer notes, but the ensuing Mama and Land Of Confusion reaffirmed my initial hopes. As the band had an extra year or so to rehearse, rest and recuperate, Phil's voice is arguably in better nick than if the band had gone with their initial plan (and had other, more pressing issues not got in the way) and toured in November and December last year.
Arguably the biggest change though from previous tours is a greater emphasis on the combination of clever visuals and some intriguing lighting selections that helped the show along immensely. They also helped to provide this marvellous sense of theatre and occasion to the entire evening. If this is to be Genesis' last hurrah (as Collins has alluded to in a recent Mojo interview), then they look to be going out with a bang to say the very least. These newly-created videos were of paramount importance on the more atmospheric elements like Home By The Sea or Land Of Confusion, which came bundled with an incredible animation of masked men on the march across Britain.
From a personal perspective, however, I wasn't necessarily paying my money to hear the hits, as plenty of other punters were, but instead to hear things that the associated tour documentary threw up and also the bundled compilation album which seemed to reveal the setlist, especially on the UK release. For instance, the apparent Fading Lights/Cinema Show/Afterglow medley was a particular highlight, especially since the former hadn't been played for nigh-on 30 years since the We Can't Dance tour. It's worth noting that the transition between Fading Lights and Cinema Show was a little abrupt, especially given that if the music had continued for a few seconds more then it would've possibly been a smoother passage. The band were on top form though for this medley, and it was handy to see Afterglow complete with Seconds Out era lighting in places.
Another piece of the show that contributed a fair amount to the entry fee for me (on both nights in Birmingham I saw) was the acoustic set, comprising of That's All (complete with Geoff Callingham entering the stage to fix a problem with Tony's piano), a reworked version of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway with the same section on the 1992 Old Medley and Follow You, Follow Me. It was principally The Lamb that got me raving about the acoustic set, as its brighter tones seemed to bring with it a wistful quality, which is certainly welcome on what is meant to be a farewell tour. The other two tracks were noticeably stronger than on the tour documentary and film of Phil doing Follow You, Follow Me from Berlin in 2019, respectively.
There wasn't any form of interval following the acoustic set, suggesting that even with his health problems, Phil's got enough stamina left in the tank for a firestorming two and a bit hour set. This was certainly evident in the ensuing Duchess which, like Tonight, Tonight, Tonight and Mama, sounded a little more atmospheric and brooding than first anticipated; the lowering of keys also contributed to this, may I say. However, it's the only time in the entire set I felt that the band overpowered Phil a smidgen.
Speaking of atmosphere, the following set including No Son Of Mine and Domino not only sounded darker, but also were some of Phil's best vocal performances of the night, alongside a reworked tambourine dance during the traditional Firth of Fifth/I Know What I Like medley. Of particular note here is Daryl's marvellous solo that still manages to mesmerise me every time I hear it. It's at this point where I must shine a light on the effervescent Nic Collins - he's a much heavier drummer than Chester, and even Phil to an extent. This was exhibited well on Firth as well as on his own band, Better Strangers and their track Lies. What this does is provide Genesis with a darker sound and of course, two drummers can be better than one, but with the first one-drummer Genesis set since the seventies, they sounded great.
I'll also single out Domino as one of Phil's best vocal performances of the evening with him keeping up on the quicker bits and reaching 2007 levels of strength in places. Visuals here were also marvellous, especially the closing couple of minutes. The usual string of hits followed though, with the pre-encore stuff knocking Throwing It All Away and Invisible Touch out of the park for a home run. Compared to the Collins-solo arrangements from his Not Dead Yet tour, things were taken up a gear as his vocal strength has not only improved but also the full band sound behind works a little better. The latter track also seemed noticeably brighter and marked one of the only real instances where the crowd got up which seemed a damn shame.
It was an encore of two halves with an aim to please both sides of the audience. Fans of Genesis the hitmakers got I Can't Dance which if I'm being honest, did seem a little cruel to perform given Phil's health, but he took it well, I have to say, and performed the track admirably. Those of a more prog-based persuasion, like myself, got the last laugh as it were with a Duke tour style arrangement of The Carpet Crawlers, complete with the spoken word intro of Dancing With The Moonlit Knight.
There's a certain air of poignancy about both components of the last song of the set, with the rolling piano of 'Crawlers setting the tone well for what is more than likely the start of Genesis' final go around. The track's always been well-placed as an encore, but none more so than last night's given its sense of occasion. As John Peel contended in a 1975 review of the single, "The Carpet Crawlers is, as most of you doubtless know, is a slow and reflective work, repetitive and yet with a certain intensity...I'm not clear what a carpet crawler is but 'Carpet Crawler' is a most satisfying release.". Peel's words as ones I concur with, and it seems no finer point to end my take on Genesis' farewell tour than with such a quote from one of Britain's most revered music critics.
I'm not too sure what a carpet crawler is either John, but I know that after a fourteen-year wait and four hours' worth of shows, I've become one.
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