The Genesis Story - Part 18: Phil's departure from the band and the creation of the band's latest album, "Calling All Stations". Narrated by Alan Hewitt.
The end of 1992's "We Can't Dance" tour saw the band's fortunes at their highest peak. The long sought for success had finally arrived and Genesis were finally among the elite handful of rock acts that could fill out stadiums and still leave crowds wanting more shows. A ten million selling album and high chart positions for all the singles released from it both here and elsewhere must have given the guys a great feeling of both satisfaction (despite the critics) and achievement.
However, as fans of Genesis' long and eventful story will know, things are never as simple as they seem and the façade of self-assurance hid doubts that were to surface almost three years later. In September 1993, the band were asked to play as part of "The Ruins Band" at a charity performance raising money for the King Edward VII Hospice alongside such alumni as Pink Floyd and the remaining members of Queen. This concert was, albeit unbeknownst to the fans who saw it, Phil's last performance with the band by which time the strain of trying to balance the conflicting demands of solo and band success proved too much for Phil as he himself recalled... "I went on stage and sang, and as I was singing these songs it didn't feel natural.. it definitely felt like: What am I doing here? Like shoes that don't fit anymore..."
Shortly after this concert, Phil broke the news of his decision to leave to the other band members at a dinner party hosted by band manager Tony Smith. It seemed that history was about to repeat itself; no press announcement was made about Phil's departure this was probably more to do with giving Phil some breathing space from the incessant press obsession with the details of his personal life at the time, and of course, to give Tony and Mike precious time to sort out their respective positions with regard to the band and the future of any Genesis projects.
The years 1995 and 1996 saw plenty of activity from Tony, Phil and Mike with all three delivering their most convincing solo albums for ages. Phil undertook yet another mammoth tour in support of his "Both Sides" album an Mike consolidated his position with The Mechanics with the highly successful "Beggar On A Beach Of Gold" album and no less than two UK tours and a string of highly successful singles. Tony also delivered his most convincing solo effort since his solo debut in 1979 in the shape of the "Strictly Inc." album with Jack Hues. All in all, Genesis fans had high hopes for their heroes upon their return to the collective fold.
The rumours that all was not well in the Genesis camp began to circulate in 1995 and, as usual, most fans shrugged them off as the usual scaremongering from a press with too little real news to report. However, this time the rumours proved to be well founded and the official announcement that Phil had quit the band was issued via a Virgin Press release on Monday, March 29, 1996 under the humorous banner headline "Genesis end twenty year experiment. Decide to replace Peter Gabriel as vocalist". Naturally, fans were shocked, none more so than the team here at TWR and speculation was soon rife about who (if anyone) would step into Phil's shoes. With solo activities still to the fore from both Mike and Tony and especially with Mike's continued success with The Mechanics there was some doubt as to whether the band would not call it a day and go their separate ways? So, 1996 began as a very frustrating one for Genesis fans and it was not alleviated by the continued silence over who was to replace Phil - the suspense really was killing us!
|Eventually the silence was broken on June 6, 1997 which was also ironically the anniversary of the D-Day landings in Europe in World War Two - an irony which I am sure was not lost on the band themselves! The group's management company, Hit & Run, announced that Phil's replacement would be twenty-eight year old Ray Wilson, Scottish former front man of grunge rockers Stiltskin. They also announced plans for the band's forthcoming album "Calling All Stations" and the tour dates for the tour that would follow its release. Anticipation was high for the new project and many fans were surprised that the band didn't opt for a "bigger name" to replace Phil but as Tony banks explained in an interview with TWR... "I think we always felt that we didn't want it to come out like a supergroup or something... we wanted very definitely the group to carry on having the kind of character it has... Ray's own reaction to the situation he found himself in was even more revealing... I don't want to be seen as the guy who fucked up Genesis which demonstrated a healthy respect both for the band's pedigree and for the fans whose support was so essential."|
What was perhaps even more surprising was the revelation in the same interview that the band had in fact been at work on the project for almost two years as Tony explained... "there was an official announcement between ourselves in the summer of '95 and by then Mike and I thought we would like to try and carry on by seeing what we get out of the writing stage and see what was produced..." The eager fans still had almost two months before the first single from the new album was released in the shape of the quirky "Congo", a typically Banksian track and not perhaps the most listener friendly choice as opening single. However, upon its release the single managed to peak at the number 29 slot in the UK helped no doubt by an extremely dramatic (and expensive) video filed in Malta. What amazed fans however, was not only had Phil been replaced in the singing department but his replacement as a drummer was a talented young Israeli Nir Tsidkyahu and the announcement that new guitarist for the tour was none other than The Corrs stalwart Anthony Drennan the "new look" band was exactly that and with three new members whose ages were less than many of their fans (including certain members of the TWR editorial team!) many fans wondered exactly what the new album and tour held in store for them?
|Genesis "Calling All Stations" Tour Dates 1997-1998|
|Chiddingfold Working Men's Club (rehearsals)||18.09.97 - 05.10.97|
|Berlin Telecom Tower||24.09.97 +|
|Kennedy Space Centre||26.08.97 +|
|RTL French TV Studios Paris||17.11.97 +|
|Danish Radio||13.12.97 +|
"Calling All Stations" itself was finally released to an eager public on September 2, 1997 and reached the number two position in the UK being held off the number one position by the ubiquitous Oasis. Elsewhere in Europe the album gained respectable positions even gaining sales of over 250,000 in Germany within three weeks of the album's release! In the USA however, the position was not quite so rosy. There the album eventually peaked at an extremely disappointing 54 in the Billboard chart and subsequently slumped to number 77 - an extremely unsatisfactory position which was exacerbated by an extremely lacklustre promotion campaign by Atlantic Records which meant that in many parts of the country the album did not appear in the stores until a few days after the release date!
|Genesis "Calling All Stations" US Arena Tour 1997 (cancelled dates)|
|Albany NY Pepsi Arena||05.11.97|
|Pittsburgh PA Civic Centre||07.11.97|
|Buffalo NY Marine Midland Arena||08.11.97|
|Penn State Bryce Jordan Arena||11.11.97|
|Grand Rapids OH Edwin Nutter Centre||12.11.97|
|Detroit MI Palace of Auburn Hills||14.11.97|
|Cleveland OH Gund Arena||15.11.97|
|Madison WI Dane County Exposition Centre||18.11.97|
|Milwaukee WI Bradley Centre||19.11.97|
|St Louis MI Kiel Centre||21.11.97|
|Chicago ILL Rosemont Horizon||22.11.97|
|Ottawa Corel Centre||25.11.97|
|Toronto Maple Leaf Gardens||27.11.97|
|Montreal Molson Centre||28.11.97|
|Philadelphia Corestate Centre||5-6.12.97|
|Boston Fleet Centre||09.12.97|
|Hartford Civic Centre||11.12.97|
|Long Island Nassau Coliseum||12.12.97|
|Landover USAir Arena||13.12.97|
|Tampa Ice Palace||21.12.97|
Press reaction to the album was the usual mix of outright hostility and apathy and it was unusual for this fan to contact the various box offices around the country to order tickets for the forthcoming UK tour (their biggest in the UK for many years apart from the 1992 "Theatre Tour" that is) only to be told by Box Office staff... "you do realise that Phil Collins is no longer in Genesis...?" an unusual selling ploy and one which I am sure must have put many fans off going to the shows which was their loss as things turned out! In the USA the fickleness of their US audience ensured that the proposed arena tour of the USA and Canada which was due to begin on November 5, 1997, was soon rescheduled and scaled down to theatres some of which the band hadn't played since the heady days of the "Duke" tour some eighteen years previously and which would have been a more fitting setting for the band's more dramatic new show perhaps? Eventually even this tour was cancelled altogether, ostensibly due to transportation difficulties with the new lighting rig, but in reality due to the paucity of ticket sales and to the apathy of an US audience wanting to see "Phil Collins AND Genesis".
|Genesis "Calling All Stations" US Theatre Tour 1997 (cancelled dates)|
|Milwaukee Riverside Theatre||05.11.97|
|Normal Braden Auditorium||08.11.97|
|Chicago Rosemont Theatre||09.11.97|
|St Louis Fox Theatre||12.11.97|
|Auburn Hills Palace of Auburn Hills||14.11.97|
|Columbus Veterans Memorial Auditorium||15.11.97|
|Toronto Hummingbird Centre||17 - 18.11.97|
|Ottawa Civic Centre Theatre||21.11.97|
|New York Beacon Theatre||23 - 24.11.97|
|Montreal Molson Centre Theatre||28.11.97|
|Boston Orpheum Theatre||04.12.97|
|Hartford Meadows Music Centre||06.12.97|
|Philadelphia Tower Theatre||10-11.12.97|
|Washington MCI Theatre||14.12.97|
|Pittsburgh A J Palumbo Centre||15.12.97|
|Grand Rapids Van Andel Arena||18.12.97|
|Cleveland Music Hall||19-20.12.97|
Fans who were aware of the problems in the USA were quite naturally worried about the status of the band's tour in Europe and the UK especially when the cancellation of the US tour meant that Europe and the UK would have the pleasure of seeing the band before our colonial cousins for the first time in ages (1981 in Europe and 1980 in the UK to be exact). The first public appearance by the new look band took place at Berlin's "Telecom Tower" on August 24, 1997 and soon blew away any doubts that the band were still capable of playing. The set drew on some of their finest moments including acoustic renditions of classics such as "Follow You Follow Me", "Lover's Leap" and "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight" as well as newer songs including "Calling All Stations" itself. A follow-up show was performed at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida two days later, which, as things stand at the moment remains the only chance that US fans had to see the band in this current incarnation.
Promotional duties completed, the band retreated to their home base in Chiddingfold to work on the selection of tracks for the new live show as well as work on the stage presentation that was to accompany it as such an integral part of the "Genesis Experience". During this hiatus, the band issued a second single from the album; "Shipwrecked" which was once again backed by a mix of non album tracks and live recordings taken from the Kennedy Space Centre show. Sadly, this single failed to make any impression on the UK charts and shortly after its release on 1st December 1997 it was withdrawn from the stores.
The band's first full-scale appearance took place at a surprise warm-up gig
at the Bray Film Studios in Windsor on January 23, 1998, a mere five days before
the band were due to play their first "proper" gig of the tour in Budapest.
The set played at Bray comprised the following tracks: No Son Of Mine / Land
Of Confusion / The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway / Calling All Stations / Hold
On My Heart / That's All / There Must Be Some Other Way / Domino
/ Carpet Crawlers / Firth Of Fifth (end section only) / Congo / Home By The
Sea / Second Home By The Sea / Dancing With The Moonlit Knight / Follow You
Follow Me / Lover's Leap / Mama / The Dividing Line / Invisible Touch / Turn
It On Again / Throwing It All Away / I Can't Dance
Hold... = tracks only played at this performance and dropped from subsequent live set.
The tour proper got under way with a show at the Sports Hall in Budapest on 29th January 1998 after a further warm-up show there the previous evening (see previous issues for reviews of these gigs). This was followed by a handful of shows in the Eastern Bloc where Genesis had never played before and the show on 31st January at the Spodek Arena in Katowice in Poland was televised. Drawing on material from their vast archive, the band played what was for most fans, their most satisfying set in years and a typical set ran as follows... No Son of Mine/ Land of Confusion/The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway/Calling All Stations/Carpet Crawlers/There Must Be Some Other Way/Alien Afternoon/Shipwrecked/Domino/Firth of Fifth/Congo/Home by the Sea/Second Home by the Sea/Dancing with the Moonlit Knight/Follow You Follow Me/Lover's Leap/Not About Us/Mama/The Dividing Line/ Invisible Touch/Turn It On Again/Throwing It All Away/I Can't Dance.
Tracks in bold type were not played at every show.
|Genesis "Calling All Stations" 1998 European Tour dates|
|Bray Film Studios Windsor (production rehearsals)||06.10.97-25.01.98|
|Bray Film Studios Windsor (warm-up show)||23.01.98 +|
|Budapest Sports Hall (warm-up gig)||28.01.98 *|
|Budapest Sports Hall||29.01.98|
|Katowice Spodek||31.01.98 +|
|Leipzig Messehalle 7||05.02.98|
|Zurich Hallenstadion||13.02.98 *|
|Bologna Palasport Casalecchio||17.02.98 +/*|
|Palasport Rome||18.02.98 *|
|Milan Filaforum||19.02.98 *|
|Lyon Halle Tony Garnier||20.02.98 +|
|Palais Omnisports de Bercy Paris||23.02.98|
|National Exhibition Centre Birmingham||25-26.02.98|
|Earls Court Arena London||27.02.98|
|Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre Glasgow||01.03.98|
|Cardiff International Arena||04-05.03.98|
|Manchester NYNEX Arena||06.03.98|
|The Point Dublin||08.03.98|
|Vorst Nationale Brussels||10.03.98|
|Rotterdam Ahoy Sportpaleis||11.03.98|
|Angers Amphitheatre 4000||15.03.98|
|Bordeaux Patinoire de Malley||16.03.98|
|Pau le Zenith||18.03.98|
|Madrid Sports Palace||19.03.98|
|Barcelona Palau St Jordi||20.03.98|
|Marseilles Le Dome||22.03.98|
|Clermont Ferrand Maison des Sports||23.03.98 (cancelled)|
|Caen Le Zenith||24.03.98|
|Strasbourg Halle Rhenus||26.03.98|
|Bielefeld Seidenstickerhalle||31.03.98 (cancelled)|
|Copenhagen Forum||01.04.98 (cancelled)|
|Stockholm Globe Arena||03.04.98|
|Helsinki Hartwall Arena||05.04.98|
|"Rock am Ring" Festival||30.05.98 +|
|"Rock im Park" Festival||31.05.98 +|
| + Filmed for television
* Filmed privately
For the new stage set up the band continued their use of the three "Jumbotron" video screens that they had so brilliantly used on the "We Can't Dance" tour six years previously although this time the screens were stationary throughout the show which some fans found disappointing especially on songs like "Alien Afternoon" and "Calling All Stations" where perhaps if they had joined up the three screens the effects might have been more effective. However, as Dave Hill, lighting co-ordinator for the tour explained to TWR; every time the screens move they cost about £10,000 imagine that multiplied first by three and then by the number of times each screen would have been required to move during the show! Many fans have also asked why the screens were not at every show? The simple answer is: logistically many venues simply didn't have a strong enough roof structure to support the combined weight of lighting and sound systems.
Two days prior to the band's first UK show, the third and final single from the album was released and a much better selection it was too. The atmospheric "Not About Us" was to be the final single backed by the remaining non-album tracks from the "Calling All Stations" sessions. It was sadly released to little effect in the charts but at least the extra tracks proved quite conclusively that the band had experienced no problems in the writing department! The tour itself received a mixed reaction not only from the press but from fans themselves. One thing noticeable about the audience this time round was that the "Phil element" was lacking, this was one of the core reasons for the poor performance relatively speaking, of the album in the US. Audience ages were mixed but mainly the older element seemed to be the norm although the audience at the second show in Cardiff were a sprightly bunch as anyone who was there can tell you! Performance wise, there are surely no doubts now that the band CAN and indeed WILL continue to thrive. Ray's performance at tomes threatened to outshine Phil's and if, as some fans have said, his stage persona was sometimes a little stilted, that can surely be put down to nerves at taking over the job from one of the finest pros in the world? In Nir Z and Anthony Drennan the band have also made an inspired choice and the new vigour which they injected into their solo spots was obviously catching as Mike in particular was taking his "Rock God" position seriously with some of the finest licks I have ever heard him play!
The band's final show of the tour proper took place at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki on Sunday 5th April 1998 and it was a brilliant finale to a brilliant tour (I know, I was there!) with all the usual end of tour hijinks including one of the road crew taking the place of the female members of the audience during the "I Can't Dance" routine and various references to sexual practices by band members! The band also managed to fit in two headlining appearances at the "Rock in Park" and "Rock am Ring" festivals in Germany the following month where they shared the billing with rock alumni Bob Dylan and Page & Plant amongst others.
Tony and Mike also undertook promotional duties in June for the long-awaited Genesis "Archive 1967-75" boxed set which was finally released on 22nd June 1998. Latest information indicates that the band will be reconvening later this year to consolidate the new beginning which "Calling All Stations" represents with the recording of a new album. There is also a "Greatest Hits" package planned and work is under way for the second archival boxed set so the stage seems set for plenty of Genesis activity into the next millennium and, of course, we shall continue to chronicle those developments here in The Waiting Room.