"En recherche du temps perdu" - The final "Selling England By The Pound" show by The Musical Box at Montreal University Sports Arena, Saturday November 14, 1998. Review by Alan Hewitt.
How do I describe the events of Saturday, November 14, 1998, to someone who wasn't there? The simplest way I suppose is to say that you were extremely unlucky! I had been hearing about this band and their historic recreations of the Gabriel era shows for a couple of years now and never thought I would be fortunate enough to see one "in the flesh", so to speak. Good fortune and a modicum of insanity ensured that I managed to see this, the last "Selling England..." show that the band were staging. Was it worth it? Well, we shall see...
Taking the plane from the Celestial City of Liverpool to the equally Celestial City of Boston, I was met by our host for the proceedings, Jack Beermann, and fellow Genesis fan and web site co-ordinator, Thomas "The Path" Holter who proved to be equally insane having flown in from Oslo for the gig! Jack kept us royally entertained for a couple of days before we made our way up to Montreal in the company of another equally insane Genesis fan, George German. Arriving in Montreal we set up camp in the hotel and were joined by an ever increasing number of members of our very own extended Genesis "family" including Armando Gallo and Paul Whitehead for an entertaining round of reminiscences over a drink or two (or ten!).
Saturday, and show time finally arrives; the moment we had all been waiting for, and anticipation was almost tangible as we took our VIP seats in the spacious arena. After a short support solo support slot by Jean Philippe, the familiar strains of "Watcher Of The Skies" began and what was that I could see dimly on stage? Yes, a figure wearing Day-Glo makeup, the piercing eyes cut through the gloom as the lights came up to reveal the band and lead singer Denis Gagne (or should that be Peter Gabriel?) resplendent in batwings and cape reliving every moment of this most wonderful of set openers.
Following this was the delightful story of "Une grande fille, qui s'appelle Britannia" and another firm favourite followed in the shape of "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight", faultlessly presented in all its glory as Denis, caparisoned as Britannia, led us through the extended metaphor of the song superbly accompanied by the band. By now I was beginning to realise exactly what people meant about the attention to detail which these guys bring to their shows. I really did believe that I was back in 1973/74 and that this was Genesis! And this was only the second song of the set!
"The Cinema Show" followed and special kudos here to Tony Banks' stand-in Dave Myers; his keyboards on this piece were truly mesmerising. A delightfully comic version of "I Know What I Like" followed, including the "Cosmic Lawnmower" and Peter's dance routine faithfully recreated which was a joy to behold and which set the capacity crowd alight.
Two personal favourites followed, and I was by now highly expectant for both of them. "Firth Of Fifth" took me by the scruff of the neck and ripped the hairs of it with a truly orgasmic rendition in which the honours are jointly shared by Christian Hebert on guitar and Dave Myers' astonishing keyboards. Following this was the band's signature tune if you like - "The Musical Box" - and they truly lived up to the expectations here with the tale of "Dirty Uncle Henry" being brought to technicolour life with a magnificent group effort, it really was THAT GOOD!
Mr Hackett's finest moment appeared next as Christian delivered a truly magnificent rendition of "Horizons" before the band thundered into the mini operetta of "The Battle Of Epping Forest" with every nuance of Peter's performance lovingly recreated by Denis. So faithful was the rendition that I honestly began to wonder if this band had been possessed by the "Spirit Of Genesis"? The story of "Le Vieux Michel" announced the end of the show proper as "Supper's Ready" thundered on stage in all its glory and indeed, our supper was delivered piping hot with generous side orders of humour, drama, farce and musical excellence all in equal measures as the various facets of the song were seamlessly joined into a glorious symphony of sound and vision, culminating with a series of dazzling explosions which elicited gasps of astonishment from the crowd, as Denis led us finally to "The New Jerusalem" which was the end of the song and the show, or so many people believed....
The band left the stage to thunderous and well-earned applause, returning after a short delay to plough through a magnificent "Le Couteau" ("The Knife") which left those of us with any voice left (a few, if any!) cheering for more and wondering what (if anything) to expect next? The band returned to perform "Can-Utility And The Coastliners" which took me completely by surprise and by the time the band reached the lyric "See a little man with his face turning red..." I could honestly relate to it, because I was screaming my heart out with delight.
As still more people trooped out of the arena thinking it was really now over; the band took the stage again for a delicious version of "Seven Stones" which was truly magnificent (I am running out if superlatives for this band) before finally leaving us with a storming version of "The Return Of the Giant Hogweed" which left everyone truly dumbstruck, and as the band took their final bows, the applause threatened to tear the roof from its foundations.
Then it really was over, and we tried to gather our wits (and vocal chords) as we waited for the others in the select VIP group to go backstage and congratulate this band of consummate musicians on what, without doubt, was the musical event of the year! This review doesn't really do justice to the gig and all I can really say is that it wasn't a concert, it was an experience and one that I will remember for the rest of my life!
The rest of the evening threatened to be an anti-climax but this was not so as we mingled with the band and the other members of this wonderful "family" which real Genesis fans are, and for a few hours at least it was good to put the real world behind. This review would not be complete without a few "thank you's", so here goes...
First of all, my thanks to Jack Beermann for making everything possible and for hospitality and generosity above and beyond the call of duty, which I doubt I will ever be able to repay! Tusen takk to Thomas Holter for his friendship, encouragement and for being a fellow servant of "the cause". My thanks to Tom Oastler and George German for reviving the CAS UK Tour posse for a night! To Serge, Brigitte and Francois for their kindness and generosity and for inviting me in the first place, c'etait un tres grand honneur d'etre avec vous, mes amis! Special thanks (Mille grazie) to Armando Gallo and Paul Whitehead for their kindness and patience and above all, encouragement. Finally, the biggest thank you of all to The Musical Box, I can now retire satisfied, you have made a happy fan very old!