“Living Forever At The Dome” - Genesis in concert at the Carrier Dome Syracuse NY on Sunday 7th June 1992. Review by Richard Morris.
The North American leg of the We can’t dance tour proved to be an odd mixture of cities both famous and obscure, and venues enormous and well.. Not quite so enormous, arranged in a puzzling route around the US and Canada. The challenge was to find a series of accessible dates and attempt to see Genesis perform at indoor Domes particularly as all the UK/European shows were to be open air - mainly in fields.
A number of dates, the likes of Madison, Tacoma and Ames (rock and roll capital of Iowa!) had me reaching for my Atlas (on this basis surely Shepton Mallet should have made it back on to the UK itinerary!). However, Genesis sandwiched two shows at the Carrier Dome Syracuse around a solitary date at Toronto’s magnificent Skydome early in June.
Sunday at Syracuse promised to be special. The indoor Carrier Dome, the University basketball arena, was possibly the smallest venue to be played on the tour and some 32,000 people here witnessed a superb performance from Genesis. I had been forewarned that the Genesis stage production had undergone a dramatic overhaul, and equally so the set list. Gone was the old lighting canopy of varilites which had evolved through the breathtaking hexagonal symmetry of the Mama Tour, to the dramatic lighting clusters of the Invisible Touch tour.
The stage was dominated by the Sony Jumbotron video screens positioned above the band which moved on a rail to provide one composite or thee independent pictures. The screens gave us high definition close up live footage relayed by TV cameras on stage and allowed some spectacular graphics to enhance the songs themselves. The stage- the widest I have seen - was flanked by enormous sound towers stacked with a PA with the volume and clarity to create the stereo imagery to really do the music justice. Below the screens and behind the band, vertical poles of varilites ran the height of the sound towers and a series of wires criss-crossed the stage on which trolleys of varilites were hauled to allow beams of light to fire down at height and at sharp angles on the band during the show.
“Minimalist” was a word employed by Mr Rutherford in one interview to describe the new lighting. Certainly on this tour it was generally used to colour the stage, veering totally away from the set concept of specific lighting effects becoming trademarks of certain songs. At times the band were almost obscured by washes of dark colours.
It was evident that Genesis had thought long and hard about how to use the video screens in an innovative way in this new live show. The technology which they had used to restricted effect in the 1970’s - particularly for The Lamb… had now caught up to enable them to effectively employ both still and animated visuals to embellish the music, whilst at the same time addressing the problem of letting people at the back of the stadium concert see the band in close up. All preconceived ideas were stripped away demanding that the audience at least - if not listen to Genesis afresh - view them afresh.
Land Of Confusion proved a strong if surprising set opener but served its purpose of warming up the crowd and allowing us to adjust as the new production unfolded. No Son Of Mine followed, performed with a powerful vocal, putting paid to any recent stories of problems with Phil’s voice. Mike had the chance to shine with some stirring guitar work to bring the song to a close.
Driving The Last Spike was translated perfectly from the record to live performance. It was the first real chance for us to appreciate how the video screens could work to enhance the songs. This track represents a return to the finest Genesis tradition of storytelling (does Phil’s singing words like ’picks’ and ’spades’ offer renewed hope for oldies containing the likes of ’undinal’ and ’breadbin’?). A display of sepia images were used to convey the song and the story of the building of Britain’s railways in the early 1800’s. I felt that here was a full integration of words, some emotive music and visuals - a stunning performance.
A revamped medley of oldies was served up to us in the shape of “some things from our history” We were guided on a magical tour down memory lane with large slices of Dance On A Volcano, The Lamb…, Musical Box the instrumental section of Firth Of Fifth with Daryl really stamping his mark of authority on the guitar parts and I Know What I Like. The latter included the surprise resurrection of Phil’s tarantella with the tambourine abuse on a scale not seen since 1982. The medley was an obvious nod towards their older fans and it flowed together effortlessly. I Know What I like allowed snatches of That’s All, Illegal Alien as well as the familiar keyboard phrase from Stagnationto lead us back to the host track. It seemed that the closing section of Supper’s Ready appeared on the medley at earlier US shows but had sadly been dropped by the time of this one. Sigh. I was delighted to see the audience respond so positively to the older material. A standing ovation like the one here will, I hope ensure that the band continue to glance as far back as the ’70’s when compiling future set lists.
A strategic deployment of Throwing It All Away followed to recapture the attention of any fans lost during the medley, whose thoughts wereturninb towards more beer, or the T shirt stalls. I will confess that this song served as a breather to give me time to reflect on the wonderful medley which had preceded it.
More new material was promised, but Fading Lights was one song I had not been expecting this early in the set. My expectation had been fuelled by its position as the big closer on the album and I anticipated similar positioning in the live set. It was apparent that Phil found some parts of the vocal strenuous and it was left to the instrumental section to lift the song to fulfil its promised live potential. I found the patterned visuals rather lacklustre but this allowed me to concentate fully on Tony, Mike and Phil as they forged through the live instrunental passage. Tony’s keyboards conveyed the drama and emotion of the recorded work and the sound system held up to the sheer power of the music. A difficult song to recreate live.
Without doubt the surprise success of the concert was Jesus He Knows Me. By no means the strongest track on the album, this song proved to be one of the most effective and humorous live. I would draw comparison with Whodunnit from Abacab, which was similarly transformed live. Again, full integration between music and visuals and a commanding piece of theatre from Phil. Who assumed the mantle of a TV evangelist to take a savage swipe at America’ plague of fraudulent pulpit pounders. With a suitably affected Southern accent, Phil upon a “divine visitation” launched an appeal from God for $18 million by the weekend.
As the band punched out the song a television screen above them implored us to “touch the screen” and “pledge now”. We were promised miracles for our cash. We could even “give now and pray later” by dialling 1-800 Genesis as Collins thundered in mock telethon style towards the magical target. Sure enough, as the song steamed to a close, $18 million flashed on the screen and Phil’s evangelist surveyed an audience, satisfied that we had all been well and truly fleeced (he had obviously seen the prices of the tour T shirts!). Phil’s image appeared in close up on the screen adorned with a halo and with a smirk that begged the question: would you buy a miracle from this man? A fitting end to a fine piece of parody.
If Fading Lights had fallen a little below expectation, Dreaming While You Sleep - my favourite from We Can’t Dance - certainly exceededit. I had wondered whether Genesis would be able to repeat the dark atmosphere of this song live. After a serious intro from Phil, the band were swathed in smoke and blue lights as the car and the headlights appeared through the rain on the screen above. With an almost forlorn voice, Phil delivered the sad tale of the hit and run driver and his victim whilst sitting on a chair at the front of the stage and staring out into the audience. Heavy keyboard chords and some stark guitar drew us into the powerful chorus sung with great passion from Phil over Chester’s pounding drum beat.
Of all the songs, Home By The Sea promised to be the most difficult to perceive within the context of the new stage production. Home… has become so firmly entrenched as one of the highlights of a Genesis concert with such a defined visual identity. The drama and atmosphere of the piece was built up by such a degree on previous tours by stunning configurations of green and white varilites that to imagine it performed any other way was impossible.
In line with the stripping away of al l such preconceptions, the video screens of course became the focal point, and the song was presented in a far more “obvious” way, with a huge haunted house, complete with bats and interspersed by Edvard Munch’s ghostlyfigutres drifting across the screens. Green and purple varilites were cast onto a metallic effect background whilst some under floor lighting exposed silhouettes or brief glimpses of the band on stage. Once more the technology was used to stunning effect, complementing the music magnificently and retaining the fundamental atmosphere of the original live presentation.
As with Fading Lights, I found that the lack of busy lighting during Second Hone… allowed me to concentrate totally on the music and the interplay between the musicians. At the close of a supremely tight and polished performance, we were left with images of three dramatic disembodied faces suspended over the band, which drifted apart as the screens slowly divided.
Hold On My Heart deserves a mention as this is a fine Genesis ballad. Criticised for being “too Collins”, Tony and Mike were well in evidence here and performed in a swathe of pastel lighting… Heart was a cool and refreshing respite from the weightier songs in this evening’s set.
Domino was my personal favourite from the last tour and was for me the climax of the current set. For perhaps the only time, the lighting took visual predominance during In The Glow Of The Night with white and yellow lights fanning out into the crowd from centre stage over Phil’s plaintive vocal. Domino is song writing and musicianship of the highest order and displays the chemistry that continues to make Genesis as a whole far more special than the individual elements. As the band launched into the Last Domino, Phil was raised on a platform “into” the screens as light was fired from behind. On the strength of this performance, Domino will sustain its place as a favourite in the set for some years to come.
Phil and Chester’s drum duet has survived yet another round. I found it a little over extended this time despite some fundamental changes in structure. I still believe this works best as a link between songs rather than a stand alone piece. It does however, serve as a reminder of the importance to Phil as his role as a drummer within the band and re-affirms his continued commitment to Genesis.
I Can’t Dance was an unusual choice for the set closer - poles apart from the traditional Los Endos but then this tour has put paid to many such conventions. This is not to take anything away, however, from what was a great crowd pleaser. Phil and Mike were joined by Daryl in stalking comically around the stage as per the video, and Phil had plenty of opportunity to clutch his groin “checking everything was in place” - the crowd roared its approval.
As abridged Tonight , Tonight, Tonight was the first encore. Plenty of low lighting and red neons on screen helped create a suitably sleazy atmosphere. Sadly the middle section - the most atmospheric part of the song, was omitted, ironically as this would have been admirably served by the visuals, as Genesis moved swiftly and rather disjointedly into Invisible Touch.
Turn It On Again predictably closed the show. I had believed that it might have fallen by the wayside by this time, with so much new material to hand. However, here was a strong and concise performance which to my great satisfaction was played in its original form,without the irritating and unnecessary medley which had, for me, soured the end of most recent Genesis shows.
After a five year absence, Genesis have returned with an album to rank among their best and a stunning live show that is both innovative and challenging. The impact of the new show was certainly reflected by the incredibly positive response of the crowd at Syracuse at the end of a wonderful evening.