“More Than A Pound Of Flesh” - Genesis in concert at Roundhay Park Leeds and Knebworth Park Stevenage on Friday 31st July and Sunday 2nd August 1992 review by Simon Pound.
With the release in November 1991 of what is arguably their strongest, most cohesive album since Wind & Wuthering, and amazingly a full half decade after the arduous Invisible Touch tour, Messrs Banks, Collins and Rutherford decreed that the time was right to embark upon another global trek. Bearing in mind the demands of their previous jaunt, the band decided to play just sixty shows in 90 days, commencing in Dallas on 8th May with a production geared exclusively to open air stadiums and various err… fields, in the US and Europe.
Honouring their history, Genesis have always pushed forward the technological envelope, forever innovating always at the vanguard of rock theatrics. Their latest innovations are designed to enable even the tiny people at the back to have a decent view this being achieved by the development of three computer controlled Sony “Jumbotron” screens (each with dimensions of 200 feet x 40 feet) attached to a track above the band, so that either three separate or one large single image can be projected on to them. The revelation of these screens lies in their superlative high definition quality even in broad daylight.
Furthermore, the band wanted to get away from the usual restrictive “big black box” stage shape and they achieved this by simply doubling the distance between the PA stacks to 140 feet, this also enhanced the stereo imagery from a typically crystal clear speaker system.
As regards lighting, historically Genesis have used light to enhance the inherent drama of their music. However, this style reached its logical conclusion on the last tour with Variltes, positioned at every conceivable inch of space on stage to create the most breathtaking spectacular light show of their career. By contrast, minimalism is the order of the day for the ‘92 show -a stage which lights up underneath, a smattering of Varilites behind the band and arranged in four mobile blocks connected to diagonal wires which crisss-cross the stage to fire light down and across as required.
What all of this means of course, is that the focus of the show is very much on Genesis’ raison d’etre - their music!
So for two perfect days at Roundhay Park Leeds on 31st July and Knebworth Park Stevenage on 2nd August, scene for their only UK dates on the tour in front of 70, 000 and 100,000 fans respectively.
Although we would all like to see “the boys” in the intimacy of our local concert hall, there really IS something special about the mega concert - to be within a sea of humanity stretching as far as the eye can see -old friends and new, sharing their experience- is wondrous to behold. Cue the music…
Mike, Phil and Tony’s “Spitting Image” puppet faces light up the screens and to a tumultuous roar of approval the triumphant triumvirate (try saying that after a few beers!) plus two are back, launching into a surprisingly muscular “heavier” version of Land Of Confusion, which warms up the crowd and sets the adrenalin racing. Their intention was to be at their best as a performing outfit by the time they reached home at the end of the tour and indeed, Phil is in tremendous voice, the band never having sounded more powerful or fired up, particularly at Knebworth where the show was broadcast to an audience of millions across Europe.
Without pausing, the ominous “tick tock” clock face intro heralds No Son Of Mine, Phil ramming home the song’s pointed lyric in no uncertain terms. Mike embellishing the track’s climax a-la Abacab with some typically inspired soloing.
Driving The Last Spike continues the rich tradition of Genesis story telling. Structurally it reminds me of what the band tried, but ultimately failed to do with The Battle Of Epping Forest two decades ago, in attempting to forge a complex, lengthy lyric with an appropriately dramatic, reflective portion of music. Phil deserves great credit for writing such an eloquently emotional lyric, providing a first person and therefore personal perdspective on the heartbreak and horrors experienced by the men who laboured to build the Victorian railways. Unlike the aforementioned track from Selling England… Spike has a series of intricate weaving musical signatures, meshing perfectly with the lyrics which combined with Phil’s dramatic mime and the sepia-tinged appropriate screen images, further compliment the storyline to create the show’s first real high point, sending those tell-tale shivers up and down our collective spines.
As a wonderful gesture to the faithful, the band takes us back to the halcyon days of the ‘70’s for quite a magnificent medley which moved many of us to stinging tears of utter joy. Screens ablaze with fire, Mr Rutherford picks out the ominous opening notes of Dance On A Volcano and it is thumbs aloft before The Lamb… lies down once more, more city images flickering in the background, then magically Phil pus his all into an awesome rendition of those closing moment s from The Musical Box. The band reach another plateau with the instrunental section from Firth Of Fifth. It is here that the pure majesty of Genesis is evident for all to hear, to feel - Tony’s cascading keyboard runs, Mike’s huge bass notes, Phil and Chester’s melodic drum fills and sensational tom toms, tipped by Daryl’s pitch perfect solo - these are stunning moments which touch heights no other band can EVER reach. Time to slow things down a little, get into that “lawnmower groove” with I Know What I Like including Phil’s tarantella ten years on…can he still pull it off? Of course he can, to the crowd’s delight. A snatch of That’s All, Illegal Alien, Your Own Special Way, Follow You Follow Me and Stagnation before a final chorus of I Know What I Like.
Significantly, the medley was far better received at Knebworth than at Leeds (really Simon? You obviously weren’t standing where I was at Leeds! - AH) but for those longstanding fans who treasure Genesis’ extraordinarily rich musical history, this was utter nostalgic ecstasy!
Throwing It All Away brought us back to earth sing-along-a- Genesis into the simple drum machine pattern of a piece of music which is already a bona fide Genesis classic - Fading Lights, the fitting climax to the We Can’t Dance album. Musically the track combines the best of Genesis old and new, as a lilting melancholic paean to loss and yearning, again beautifully sung by Phil in a voice oh-so-fragile, effortlessly dissolving into one of the most magnificent instrumental sections the band have ever created. The split screens show just Mike, Phil and Tony apart and yet “as one” as those massive staccato like notes surge into Tony’s dazzling synth work - the sheer majesty and power of the band beautifully demonstrated. As pencil thin sprays of white light shimmer across the stage and the audience, Phil’s vocal reprise closes the track and I believe that we have yet to see the very best of this monumental song! These are the days of our lives…so remember!
My least favourite track on the album was Jesus He Knows Me but like Who Dunnit in years gone by, it has been transformed beyond recognition by an imaginative, exuberant and extremely funny live interpretation, using the screens to inspired effect as Phil enacts the ribald rile of a twitching TV evangelist.
It’s audience participation time - some Genesis melodrama in the form of Home By The Sea. I never thought I would feel the need to criticise the band’s visuals which usually perfectly compliment the music they are designed to reflect and enhance. However, the images chosen to illustrate Home By The Sea I felt were extremely weak and curiously unimaginative, with an animated haunted house which looked like it might have been lifted from an old episode of Scooby Doo. Many of the supposedly “ghostly” shimmering facial projections were equally weak and unexpectedly, particularly as the song is so inherently visual, crying out for inventive video images. That said, it is the music that matters and Home By The Sea is a firm favourite and an important part of the modern day set.
Hold On My Heart is one of the most simple yet beautifully realised ballads, the tune is one of the best of its kind the band have written. Onstage amid great washes of deep blue and pink light, Phil delivers yet another tear jerking lyrical performance. The new audio-visual Armageddon here we come style climax to the set is Domino (Los Endos - R I P) during which the screen images go into overdrive as Phil re emerges for the last domino in front of the middle Jumbotron on a riser at the back of the stage whilst billowing smoke, dazzling white light and computer generated animations add to the apocalyptic on stage drama - wonderful!
The new drum duel duet is now isolated from the rest of the set and seems curiously naked but as always, is supremely entertaining and an opportunity to study Phil and Chester’s skin beating techniques close up. It is good to see Phil spending so much time behind his drum kit on this tour as a reminder to everyone of where, perhaps his greatest talent, still lies.
The main set closes with what is quite simply the most hilarious song performanceI have ever seen. Phil ‘hams’ it up and leads Mike and Daryl around the stage with that now famous err… dance! Talk about challenging one’s prejudices and preconceptions about what Genesis are! I suspect I Can’t Dance may become an encore on future shows - it is certainly a show-stopper, leaving us baying en-masse for more.
After the obligatory breather whilst we ritually wear out our already wasted voices, Tonight, Tonight, Tonight (Part One) follows on, which is superbly lit with red lights and suitably sleazy images of Soho. It heralds the first of three encore tracks. Invisible Touch gets everyone up and dancing whilst the strident rock pulse of perennial favourite Turn It On Again complete with band introductions (as if) concludes the set.
Genesis continue to surpass even the highest expectations to confound cynics and critics alike, to explore new musical territories and, most importantly, Phil, Mike and Tony are more enthusiastic than ever about the truly extraordinary situation they find themselves in. The future looks cert bright indeed for the band, Phil reiterating this very point at Knebworth by stating that… “this isn’t the last you’ve seen of us”. I have a feeling that they will be on the concert stages of the world sooner than we think!
There really is nothing in life to compare with Genesis live - here’s to the next chapter!