Genesis - a revelation
And the end of an era
I didn’t really know who Genesis were before turning up at university. That didn’t stop me seeing them play twice in 1980 on their Duke tour. Once in Edinburgh and then a week later at the City Hall in Newcastle. My musical education started soon after arriving in the toon, having previously been limited to Top of the Pops, The Beatles and Thin Lizzy, a pop/rock group.
History and drama
Genesis were different. For a start they had a substantial back catalogue, having been together for over a decade by the time I saw them. Peter Gabriel, their famous frontman had been and gone as had Steve Hackett, lead guitarist. Diehard fans had gone too. Genesis were not the same without Gabriel and how could you replace Hackett? Fortunately Dave Walton (best man Dave) and Paul Langton (no idea) were still fans and I began to listen to all that had gone before. Advice was given on where to start my journey of enlightenment?
“Selling England By The Pound, Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering for sure. Then Their Were Three, not so good, don’t bother. Save Trespass, Nursery Crime and Foxtrot for later.”
747 landing lights
There were stories about Knebworth and Genesis being a band you had to see live. In their famous 1977 concert, 48 Boeing 747 landing lights were arranged in a vertical wall of light which had been talked about ever since. When Genesis toured, they needed 18 articulated lorries for all their kit, the average band on tour, maybe three.
Even buying tickets for the Duke tour is memorable. Edinburgh had been a plain and simple postal application on a first come, first served basis. We sent a cheque in the post for 4 tickets. This was our fallback option if Newcastle didn’t work out for some reason. Newcastle’s City Hall was also on a first come basis, but you had to queue for tickets. It didn’t open until 9.00am one Monday morning and the queue started forming sometime on the Sunday. By the time we joined at lunchtime, it was already snaking around two sides of the hall. We took it in turns to queue. I was there until late, but didn’t have to do those dead hours between 2 and 6 in the morning. It was freezing cold as well, a typical Geordie day with a cold easterly wind coming in from the Baltic. We put our sleeping bags inside thick, orange, polythene, survival bags and wore thick jumpers and hats. It all added to the mystique of being a committed Genesis fan. You did what had to be done, a small sacrifice to be a part of a spectacle you didn’t want to miss. Okay, Langy refused to miss his 9.00am Maths lecture, but everyone else was pretty relaxed.
The O2 is big
As we exited North Greenwich tube, we joined a river of people flowing into the O2. It felt more like a big football game, the fans arriving early, not wanting to miss anything before kick off. The only difference were the number of heads bobbing up and down into the distance, which bore a striking resemblance to Phil Collins, at least from behind. What did I expect? Genesis is a 50 plus year old band, the vast majority of fans have had a relationship with their music for years.
Inside, you forget how big and cavernous a venue the O2 is. There is still a wow factor, especially as the place starts to fill with thousands of others of a certain age. I looked at the people in the rows around me, curious to know their stories. What happened to them after they first saw Genesis, or maybe they’re seeing them live for the first time today? Avid fans who only now in retirement, can afford the time and money to be here. It’s not cheap and I was really in two minds even after I’d purchased.
My biggest concern, the elephant in the room, was how could it possibly be a slightly older and wiser Genesis, when Phil Collins has to sit down for the whole performance? I’d watched the promo and there he was up front, sitting on an office chair with wheels on. How incongruous is that? Is this how I wanted to remember one of the biggest and best iconic bands of my lifetime? Phil Collins, the life and soul of the party for years, an amazing drummer, an extraordinary career, transformed into Davros, the evil leader of the Daleks, a husk of his former self. All the energy, vitality and Phil deserting him. A reminder, a cruel reflection of the tricks that life can play on anyone, especially one with rockstar-type issues.
I wonder how he must be feeling? The rock legend surely doesn’t want to be pitied. Yet he’s made the decision to do one more world tour, The Last Domino with Rutherford and Banks, up there, out front, witnessed by thousands - tired, old, no longer whole. One last throw of the dice, a chance to recapture the essence of what has been? To do it for the love of doing it perhaps?
It is also a chance for us to see beyond the broken man and pay homage once again at the high alter of rock.
And then it begins
The lights go out and a roar goes up. The band are not in a hurry, how can they be? The seconds tick by in the dark, it only adds to the anticipation, and then with perfect timing, we’re dazzled by a big, bright and bold Duke’s End opening song. They’re back and filling the O2 with effortless ease, eating into every corner of the auditorium, the audience mesmerised.
We are immediately thrown back to earlier tours. There they are again, the 747 landing lights in a bank behind the band. But this time, it’s all being projected using CGI. Above the stage, the real lights are arranged in 4 x 4 cubes, more versatile and powerful than anything in the past. The big screens behind and to the side of the stage, bring the band to our seats. Mixed with all the graphic sequences, we are overloaded with imagery, all slickly arranged as they move from one epic song to another with Collins giving it all his emotional best. As he reminds us, “we are here to entertain you,” before cracking a joke about being grateful to be finally speaking English again.
Make your own music now
The line that sticks though, is when he announces the end of Genesis.
“This is it. You’ll have to make your own music now.”
Hidden behind the humour, there is a real sense of loss for us and him. Finally, he’s having to recognise that he’s finally run out of road and the Genesis journey is over. There is no more time left to turn back. The path is clearly forward and a different future awaits.
Sunday night, Mr. Farmer called
Said, "Listen, son, you're wasting time
There's a future for you in the fire escape trade
Come up to town"
I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) off the Selling England By The Pound album.