"The Five Nations (soon to be six) Tour." Genesis' Calling All Stations European Tour. Reviewed by a tired but immensely happy Alan Hewitt.

Well - where do I begin with a review of the latest Genesis tour which has seen me on my travels more than at any time since the "Invisible Touch" tour some eleven years ago!? I suppose the beginning is as good a place as any although reviews of the rehearsal gig at Bray appear elsewhere in this issue, so I will skip that and get straight down to business if you like...

When the tour dates were announced, I noticed that the band were playing a gig on my birthday. There was only one small problem - it was in Lyon, France! I had always wanted to see the band play live on my birthday and what a year to do it? The band's thirtieth, my thirty-sixth birthday and twenty-second anniversary as a Genesis fan. Fortunately I had a partner in crime for this trip - the famous (or should that be infamous?) Martin "The Coat" Dean, who was mad enough to offer to join me! It has to be said that Carol Willis at Hit & Run played a BIG part in this gig and so a massive THANK YOU, Carol!

Anyway, Martin and I arrived in Lyon on a glorious Friday afternoon (unusual for February) and after arranging our hotel a mere five minutes' walk from the venue, we set off to explore a bit of this fantastic city. Showtime approached and we returned to collect our tickets and here was another opportunity for me to practice my French. Imagine my surprise therefore when the tickets which I had asked Carol to reserve for me and which I was preparing to pay for turned out to be complimentary ones! Not only that but also the other envelope which Martin and I received contained another surprise - two after-show passes - something your long-suffering editor has never had (or asked for, I might add!)

Obviously this was going to be one special show for yours truly! Excitement reached fever pitch as we waited for the band to hit the stage, which they eventually did to the tick tock strains of "No Son Of Mine" which was ecstatically received by the very enthusiastic French crowd. The cavernous Halle Tony Garnier came alive as the band thundered on through "Land Of Confusion", before reaching the evergreen classic "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway". Ray's vocal delivery here was simply astonishing, and raised goose-bumps on everyone's necks!

An advert for Genesis' Lyon gig
(Photo - A. Hewitt/TWR)

The band's first new song followed, with "Calling All Stations" benefiting enormously from the addition of the three video screens which gave an added dimension to this most powerful of songs. I was surprised to see that both "Hold On My Heart" and "That's All" had been dropped from the set. However, the rest of the show drew upon so many classics I was really spoiled for choice. Kudos in particular to Anthony Drennan who put his own stamp upon the solo in "Firth Of Fifth" and to Nir Z whose powerhouse percussion lifted both "Mama" and "The Dividing Line" to another dimension, added to by a vocals performance by Ray on the former track which was astonishing - he out-sang Phil on this one, and I am sure that everyone was as surprised and pleased as I was by this performance.

Personal highlight of the show for me, however, was the acoustic medley comprising the intro to "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight" along with a gorgeous "Follow You Follow Me" and "Lover's Leap" from "Supper's Ready" which had me in tears. Ray's antics during the introductions to both "Home By The Sea" where he bemoaned the lack of female groupies for the band, and his search for his ideal woman, completed with the hilarious antics at the start of "I Can't Dance", where he went out into the crowd to find his woman, proved that Genesis are not without a sense of humour, and left the crowd baying for more. Elated, and knowing that Martin and I had another nine shows to see in the UK we waited backstage for the band to appear and they seemed genuinely pleased to see us, even wishing me "happy birthday" which brought this most memorable of birthdays to a close and we floated back to our hotel to celebrate our successful "raid" into Europe in time-honoured fashion with a few modest libations of Kronenbourg, and a game of pool, but the least said about THAT, the better!

Less than one week later, I found myself in the celestial city if Birmingham for the band's opening night of two at the start of their UK tour. Seated centre front row (where else?) I took the show in from a prime vantage point and was not disappointed. The band's performance got better with highlights again being "Mama" where Ray's demonic wail and manic facial expressions etched out by clever lighting looked extremely frightening at close quarters I can tell you! "There Must Be Some Other Way", "Calling All Stations", and "The Dividing Line" all came across well. The band's lighting, which has always been tasteful and effective has lost none of its potency, especially during the tale of alien abduction which is "Alien Afternoon", a surprise addition to the second night. I was also pleased to hear the band's new single "Not About Us" included in the acoustic medley, although Ray seemed to have forgotten that the single had actually been released. It wasn't until the band reached Cardiff and after much gentle reminding by a certain vocal element in the crowd (all names have been changed to protect the innocent, haven't they Martin? Oops!)

Two magnificent nights in Birmingham were followed by a one night stand at London's cavernous Earl's Court Arena. Sad to say, personally this was the worst gig of the UK tour. When, oh when are they going to learn and tier the seating in this place! Performance wise I am told that the band were on excellent form. It was difficult for me to judge, being unable to see most of what was going on and the sound back there was ATROCIOUS. That will teach me to slum it in the cheap seats! However, the pre-gig "meet and greet" session at the nearby Prince of Wales pub was excellent and where about fifty Genesis fans from all over the world gathered for a remarkable afternoon of reminiscing, drinking and MORE drinking!

A night off for us almost turned into a cancelled tour for our travelling party, as we were involved in a pile-up on the M6 travelling to Glasgow! Fortunately we all survived and still made it to Glasgow in time to see Yes put in a STUNNING performance. The following night, Genesis were on Ray's home turf and the audience really got behind the band specially during their renditions of their older material.

The lucky backstage pass
(Photo - A. Hewitt/TWR)

Another short trip down the motorway saw us arrive in Newcastle for a gig at the brand new city arena (a latter day Deeside Leisure Centre, now how many fans remember THAT place eh?). fundamentally the show remained the same although we were now deprived of the video screens which were only to re-appear at Manchester four days later. This did not impair the performance which, if anything, was heightened by the band playing more to their musical strengths, a fact which did not go unnoticed by the crowd who gave the band one of their warmest receptions so far.

Due to our transport problems, yours truly then took a slight detour for a day or so in the company of two completely insane Americans (insane because they were prepared to put up with me for two days!). The upshot was that, at long last, your editor got to "climb up Solsbury Hill". We rejoined the TWR posse in Cardiff for a two night stint at the new International Arena, which was one of the smallest venues the band were playing this time round. The first night passed off well, but the second night was marvellous, perhaps the best gig I have ever seen the band perform. This was all the stranger because only 1400 of the 6000 tickets had been sold, the rest had been given away (at least that is what we were told by arena staff). Nonetheless, from the moment the band took to the stage something magical happened and the audience and the band became one. It really is impossible for me to select highlights from this gig. Every song was special and the young lady who Ray picked from the crowd for "I Can't Dance" was special as I am sure everyone who saw her can testify!

Our travels continued; the next stop being Manchester's NYNEX Arena, scene of Phil's triumphs last year. This massive sports arena is one of the unlikely gems of the concert circuit. The acoustics are excellent and tonight's show was for me personally, the best sound wise. With the video screens back, "Alien Afternoon" took on a whole new dimension, and Ray's delivery on "Mama" was as spine chilling as ever. The audience however, seemed a touch reserved, saving their applause for the show closers and the encores, which was a bit disappointing, because the band's performance deserved more than that!

Our travelling troupe said good bye to several of its members and those hardy souls who were going on for the final show in Dublin wended their weary way back to Liverpool for a late night curry and well-earned night's rest. Saturday was spent sightseeing in my home town before we set of very early on Sunday morning to catch the ferry to Dublin. An uneventful crossing saw us arrive in plenty of time to sample Dublin's most famous export and meet up with a group of local fans who were understandably excited about the band's first show in Ireland for twenty-six years! The crowd were a strange bunch. I almost felt young compared to some of them. However, their reaction to the band was warm if not exactly rapturous. Once again, the band turned in a high octane performance rounding off the UK tour on a satisfactory note and leaving yours truly a satisfied if tired and broke editor!

The title of this overview is however, slightly misleading, because you can't keep a good editor down, and I shall shortly be making the pilgrimage to Helsinki for the last show on this current tour and on this showing I am sure that we haven't seen the last of Genesis - thanks again boys for making a happy editor very old!

Ray and Tony on stage
(Photo - A. Gouder/TWR)

As usual, a tour of this magnitude leaves a whole heap of thank you's to be said and so here goes... Thanks to Tony, Mike, Ray, Anthony, Nir for putting in sterling performances night after night. To Carol Willis and Joanne Greenwood at Hit & Run for making my birthday this year one I will never forget and for the "Bray Experience". To Tim Brockman, Chris "Privet" Hedges and Dave Hill for giving up so much of their time to help us. Special thanks to Martin "The Coat" Dean for services above and beyond the call of duty and sanity! To "The Waiting Room Posse" Tony and Gerald (the Singapore Contingent), Tony Emmerson, George German, Jack Beermann, Albert Gouder, Jon "Armando" Guntrip, Annette Williams, Sharon Jackson, Declan Kelly, Brian and Joe McGrath, Noel Carroll, Mike Griffin, Simon Pound, Gary Myer, Valerie and Richard Morris, Phil Morris, Tim Slade, Richard Hewison, Jeremy "Claudius" Brown, Lassi Ahola Huhta, Osman El Gothamy, Mel Huang, Peter Morton, Phil Myland, Peter Gozzard, Mike Jackson, Alan Perry, Kevin and Shirley Powell (still the best shepherd's pie in the cosmos!), Duncan and Lisa Philips (good luck with the Strictly Banks project!). Special thanks to Tom Oastler and Mansoor Khaleeluddin without whom I wouldn't have got to climb that hill and for their unstinting kindness to a complete stranger (and they don't come any stranger than me, do they?!). And a fine "thank you" to anyone I may have missed out - you know who you are and THANK YOU!!

Here's to the next tour!