"A Grand Day Out" - A perspective on the Genesis rehearsals at Bray Film Studios, January 23, 1998. Review by Rachel Jones.
Hi to all "Waiting Room" readers! Having been lucky enough to be invited to the January dress rehearsal for the coming Genesis tour, I would like to share with you my recollection of a truly memorable day. We arrived at Bray Film Studios at about 2pm on a chilly Friday afternoon. Having met up with some friends a little earlier, we had plenty of time to get fairly wound-up in anticipation of the gig, so the strains of "Land Of Confusion" and "Home By The Sea" drifting from within the studio building as we got out of the car only added to our excitable behaviour!
A group of us waited outside for a while until all expected guests had assembled, then headed straight for the action. It felt a little strange to walk casually into such an event without being stopped or asked for proof of identity, particularly as we passed Tony Banks in person going out as we were on our way in!
The studio itself wasn't enormous by any means but it felt heavy with atmosphere and was subtly lit, with traces of dry ice (or maybe smoke) lingering in the air. A handful of people, mainly I suppose, technicians and the like, were milling busily around so we made our way toward the stage which loomed at the far end. Upturned flight cases (yes, the genuine articles!) had been used in place of seating so we chose our ideal spot in the centre of the front row, and settled down for a chat before the show began. About an hour later just as we thought we might not be able to stand the suspense very much longer; there they were - Genesis in all their glory right before our eyes.
The band opened their set with a haunting version of "No Son Of Mine" closely followed by a punchy version of "Land Of Confusion". It was almost surreal to be witnessing a performance like this at such close quarters, and we made so much noise and contributed so enthusiastically to the backing vocals that we really felt part of the show. We could see every band member clearly from our seated positions - Mike was almost directly in front of us for most of the afternoon, whilst Ray used the whole stage, pacing about although I think he was ever so slightly biased towards our side, purely because we were so loud!
The rehearsal was the first truly live show for Ray with the band, so we were especially keen to make him feel welcome and at ease. He verbally acknowledged our presence a few times, so I guess we must have done OK. The set list provided a few surprises, none of us were exactly sure what to expect in terms of which tracks we were likely to hear, but every one, without exception, sounded fantastic. I believe Genesis to be on top form at the moment - they looked relaxed and confident on stage (plenty of smiles and laughter all round) and the overall musical feel was huge and warm but also raw and newly exciting at the same time. They have a superb drummer in Nir; his solo on "The Dividing Line" was spectacular, and I think Ray is a major new asset. His voice brings a new edge to the music but he is also a great live performer... and a bit of a lady killer, as you will find out later!
There was a great version of the title track from "Calling All Stations", then "Hold On My Heart" during which I managed to establish a little eye contact with Mr. Wilson himself, who then proceeded to sit perched on the edge of the stage in rather close proximity for a large part of the song! As the afternoon progressed, we were treated to some other special tracks; a gorgeous rendition of "Carpet Crawlers", and a complete acoustic set which, among others, included "Follow You Follow Me", and the opening section of "Supper's Ready"... Does anyone else experience an emotional rollercoaster every time they hear this song, or is it just me?
"Mama" was done very, very well indeed, and it was wonderful to hear "Congo" and "There Must Be Some Other Way" (what a voice!) played live for the first time. I confess I was hoping to hear "Shipwrecked" and "Alien Afternoon" but having since read several reports of gigs on the European tour, it does seem that these songs are now appearing as part of the set list, so I look forward to the British dates!
I have already mentioned "The Dividing Line" but it must be said that the live version is incredibly powerful, it needs to be witnessed to be fully appreciated - and I also enjoyed "Turn It On Again" - which still appears to be fun for the band to perform (we already know it to be one of Ray's favourites)... and which also proved to be fairly fruitful as far as developing the ongoing eye contact was concerned!
Almost two hours had melted away far too quickly, so none of us were prepared to go home without the obligatory encores. We all made noises equal to that of a much larger audience, with so much whistling, yelling and stamping of feet as was physically possible, and sure enough the boys returned for "Throwing It All Away" and we used most of our remaining energy for further backing vocals!
As the noise died away at the end of the song Ray began to say..."Now, I've got a problem - as you may have noticed...." And I thought he looked at me again, but rapidly dismissed the idea, as he headed away from us across the stage and began to descend the steps on the far side. Once down on the floor he walked in our direction saying again; "I've got a problem - and someone is going to help me solve it..." A familiar sounding drum pattern began to echo around the studio... and there was Ray Wilson himself standing directly before me, taking my hand and pulling me from my seat - surely this just doesn't happen at Genesis concerts?!
Still holding my hand, Ray led me back toward the stage steps. "I Can't Dance.." he said... "but you can, can't you?" I think I said "yes". In somewhat of a daze he guided me up (past Tony Banks again!) toward the centre of the stage, where he attempted to demonstrate the mechanics of "the walk". My brain however, had ceased to connect with the rest of my anatomy by this point, so I am afraid I was a rather slow learner. Ray gave up his tuition and said "let's have a real dance" and with that, set me up in a Waltz position, with one arm tightly around my neck, and embarked on the first verse of the song - right in my ear!
After a couple of minutes of slow dance - he thanked me, laughed again (he laughs a lot!) and helped me retrace my steps where I was helped down. I returned, face on fire, to rapturous laughter and applause from my highly amused friends!! We cheered for all we were worth as the set drew to a final close, wanting the band to know just how much we had appreciated the show, and how good they had made us all feel!
Ray during "I Can't Dance" with the author!
(Photo - I. Jones/TWR)
We had the opportunity to chat to Ray a while later, about some of his feelings regarding the afternoon's performance and I can say, with no doubt, that he is a genuine down to earth friendly and thoroughly likeable guy, all rolled into one. The whole band in fact seem to be much more approachable of late, and their apparent willingness to mingle with and talk to their followers and admirers is commendable. After all, it must be extraordinarily hard work! All Genesis shows are special, but this particular day was extra special, and will remain with me always, so big thank you to the band and to Alan H. who made it all possible for us. Let's raise our glasses to Genesis in thanks and support for the rest of the "Calling All Stations" tour - I hope that they will find their experiences over the next few months as rewarding as I know we shall find ours.