Genesis Makes A Revelation in Philadelphia
The composer Robert Schumann wrote at the beginning of one of his compositions: "To be played as fast as possible." A few measures later he wrote: "Faster."
This is the splendor of certain types of music and art. To ignore physical boundaries. To venture beyond the beyond. To take it to the limit, and find that limit unacceptable.
Though we may endeavor to treat all music with a degree of respect and find value in it’s creation sometimes prejudices slip auspiciously into the mix. For me, there was a brief time, a window of glory in the 1970s through which progressive rock bands slipped into the mainstream consciousness. Now some may say “pretentious excess” and some may say “artful vision”. Neither would be entirely wrong. But for me at least, bands like Gentle Giant, King Crimson, and Genesis generated music that commanded respect and admiration. This article will focus on Genesis who are currently touring.
I attended the 1st evening of a sold out three night series of concerts at Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center. The Band’s set lasted two and a half hours including an encore. The music was flawless. Although the lads are getting up in years the show was highly energetic and powerful covering many eras of their diverse releases. The much anticipated staging was as imaginative as one would expect from this group who pioneered so many technical innovations in stage lighting throughout their career. The show was dazzling and delightful. Whether you are a hard core fan from the Gabriel- Hackett era or know them from their domination of the pop charts through the 80s and early 90s, they played enough of both their hits and the more operatic styles to please.
- Behind The Lines / Duke’s End
- Turn It On Again
- No Son Of Mine
- Land Of Confusion
- In The Cage / The Cinema Show / Duke’s Travels
- Hold On My Heart
- Home By The Sea / Second Home By The Sea
- Follow You Follow Me
- Firth Of Fifth / I Know What I Like
- Throwing It All Away
- Drum Duet
- Los Endos
- Tonight Tonight Tonight
- Invisible Touch
- I Can’t Dance
- The Carpet Crawlers
In the beginning, music was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of Art-Rock moved upon the face of the waters.
And it was good.
Tony Banks brought forth thunder and lightning with his keyboards.
Steve Hackett’s virtuoso electric guitar wizardry brought down the walls of Jericho.
Mike Rutherford’s guitar, bass and Moog Taurus bass pedals delighted the righteous believers.
Phillip - son of Greville Collins begot intelligently designed rhythms.
And Saint Peter Gabriel converted us all.
The band was formed by Banks and Gabriel while they were students at the prestigous Charterhouse School in England. Originally called “The Garden Wall” their early efforts were simple pop affairs influenced by the Beatles and pre-disco Bee Gees. Anthony Phillips was the original guitarist. ( His albums are worth the effort if you can find them, my personal favorite - Wise After The Event seems to only be available as a pricey Japanese import at the moment). They recorded 2 albums during this period. From Genesis to Revelation in 1968 and Trespass in 1969. Trespass hinted at the direction the band would take in it’s classic period.
The classic period. Their music from 1970 until 1975 was characterized by complex song structures, shifting time signatures, and elaborate instrumentation. The songs were focused on story telling and the live concerts were very theatrical with Peter Gabriel engaging in elaborate costume changes to represent the colorful characters in the stories.
( Who among us can ever forget the Slipperman costume
from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway?)
How Did Peter Get A Mike In this Thing?
from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway?)
How Did Peter Get A Mike In this Thing?
Anyone who enjoys progressive rock simply must have Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England By The Pound, and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway in their collection. This is “the stuff that dreams are made of “ as Bogart said in The Maltese Falcon.
“The vehicle we had built as a co-op to serve our songwriting became our master…”
This is what Peter Gabriel wrote in a letter to Genesis fans regarding his departure from the band after the Lamb Lies Down tour. The group began to audition singers to find a replacement for Gabriel. Collins, who had provided backing vocals, coached prospective replacements but none were quite right for the task. Eventually, the band decided to let Collins assume the lead vocalist roll. Of course some remarkable work followed. Trick Of The Tale continued the excellent story telling tradition and removed any doubt about the ability of the band to continue without Mr. Gabriel’s considerable talents. At the time critics claimed Collins sounded more like Gabriel than Gabriel. Trick Of The Tale is also produced by David Hentschel who brought clearer audio to the proceedings. Since Phil Collins was busy fronting the band the assistance of a second drummer was required, Bill Bruford, drummer for Yes and King Crimson was hired for the 1976 tour.
Genesis' first live performance without Peter Gabriel was on March 26, 1976, in London, Ontario Canada
Later that year, Genesis recorded Wind & Wuthering, Released in December 1976, the album took its name from Emily Brontë's novel Wuthering Heights, whose last lines—"how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth"—inspired Steve Hackett to write 2 instrumental tracks on the album. Wind and Wuthering was to be Steve Hackett’s last with the band except for the excellent “Seconds Out” live document which was recorded during the 1977 tour.
Genesis proceeded as a trio. It was this trio that absolutely dominated the pop charts well into the 1990s with strings of hits. For live performances drummer Chester Thompson ( Weather Report, Frank Zappa ) and session guitarist Daryl Steurmer (Jean Luc Ponty, George Duke) were brought in as permanent part time members. Now begins the dichotomy that both plagues and enables Genesis.
“Then There Were Three”, the next album really didn’t strike me as all that great but yielded the hit single “Follow You, Follow Me”. Ironically it became their first certified gold record.
I can not condemn a band for wanting success, though many of the old fans did. It mattered not as the next 20 years would be filled with Genesis pop music and solo albums by all. As pop music goes, their take on it was always enjoyable in my opinion. Though certainly the depth of lyrical content and musical experimentation was now tempered or gone altogether. So what? At least they gave us some of Art Rock’s finest moments. And who can fault pursuing a path that yields such obvious rewards? Besides, they didn’t do bad music as a pop band. I like many of those tunes as well. But I will always hold a reverence for the commercially naive but explosively original music they created in the 1970s.
After much speculation regarding a reunion, Banks, Collins and Rutherford announced Turn It On Again: The Tour on November 7th, 2006; nearly 40 years after the band first formed. The trio had wanted to reunite as a five-piece with Gabriel and Hackett for a live performance of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Gabriel agreed to perform, but he was unable to commit to a date. Collins observed that "Peter is a little over-cautious about going back to something which fundamentally is fun".( press conference November 7th 2006). Hackett had also agreed to participation, but without Peter joining in on the tour, Phil, Tony and Mike thought that it would be more appropriate to bring back Chester Thompson and Daryl Stuermer. Steve Hackett, however still maintains good relations with the rest of the band. A short note expressing his good wishes for the reunion tour currently appears on his web site. ( Steve Hackett is one of my all time favorite guitarists and his brand new CD, Wild Orchids is a worthy purchase by the way.)
Now it came to pass on the 23rd day of the ninth month in the year
2007 according to the Gregorian Calendar, the band brought its reunion tour to The Wachovia Center for a sold-out concert.
And lo, there was much rejoicing.
Collins sang forth, from time to time, basheth upon a heathen drum kit. Mike
Rutherford, son of Crawford, played guitar and bass. Tony Banks, son of
John, brought forth keyboards.
The trinity was backed by its faithful disciples, sidemen Daryl Stuermer and Chester
Thompson. Who have been faithful for 30 years now.
A technician said, "Let there be light," and there were many colors amid wisps of theatrical fog.
And Behold! The Biggest of all big screen backdrops brought forth a multitude of images.
Then Collins said, "We are Genesis, we are your entertainment for this evening."
Collins jabbed a finger angrily in the air as he belted out "No Son of
Mine" …honoring thy father?
"Ha-ha! Ha!" Collins laughed diabolically in the middle of "Mama" …honoring thy mother?
"Apart from us, any other old people out there
tonight? Good, because we're going to play some very, very old songs."
Phil announced. Indeed the band fulfilled the prophecy.
And lo, the Audience coveted no longer the sounds of “The Cage”, The Cinema Show”, nor
"Afterglow" (resplendent with virtual sunset).
No servant can serve two masters, yet this band tried its best, as
it’s conflicted soul found itself caught in the epic hero’s struggle between the
forces of progressive-art rock and the forces of pop.
Those extremes were difficult for some to reconcile at times during the 2 1/2
hour performance, but this dichotomy was always a part of the band’s history and true believers were not surprised. ( After all this IS the “Land of Confusion”).
Then sayeth the Phil, "We've come to the end of our evening together."
The Duality of the band revealed itself again during the encore. And lo, the Art of "The Carpet Crawlers" and the pop of "I Can't Dance" were met with more rejoicing, before the mass exodus.
The classic line up of Genesis was probably the most British of all English rock bands. Some music writers, in fact, felt that Genesis didn't actually play rock music at all, but used the vehicle of the popular art form to convey their strikingly antique, mentally aggressive, and emotionally unsettling explorations and visions. Rock music is generally believed to be at least somewhat affiliated with rhythm & blues. This crew of lily-skinned English lads didn't cater to the blues at all but drew more from the classical concert hall. These very British fable-mongers created Tolkien-like journeys that collided with the worlds of Edgar Allen Poe and Lewis Carroll; leaving a legacy of evocative, haunting, and atmospheric collages the likes of which will never be duplicated. Oh Yeah, they played some darned good pop music too.
“Judge not this race by it’s remains…”
Peter Gabriel lyric- (Watcher Of The Skies)
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