"Le Souper est pret, encore une fois" - The Musical Box concerts at The Montreal Spectrum Saturday June 3 and Sunday June 4. Review by Alan Hewitt.

Well, where do I begin with this one? I didn't think I would have the opportunity of seeing The Musical Box perform their "Selling England By the Pound" show again after 1998's extraordinary performance at the Sports Arena, but I was wrong. When I received 'phone calls from both Jack Beermann and Duncan Philips about the prospect of not only two "Selling..." shows but also the chance to see a "Foxtrot" era show as well; that was it - a flight to Montreal was duly booked!

The trip soon took on extra significance when it became apparent that my companion on this trip: Duncan Philips would be carrying something very special with him to Canada. I was intrigued and extremely excited to learn that Duncan had been given access to the original projection slides for Genesis' "Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" show and was carrying a copy set for the guys in The Musical Box. Needless to say, the prospect of seeing those slides sent a shiver down my spine. Of course, I had my own personal reasons for looking forward to these shows; the chance to celebrate the recent publication of my book with some old friends was one not to be missed (nor was it, I may add!)

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The VIP Pass
The flight to Montreal was uneventful and we arrived at the airport to be met by the familiar faces of Serge Morisette and Jack Beermann along with fellow Paperlater Maurizio Maurabito. Duncan and I were then whisked off to the band's rehearsal room where we were treated to a sneak preview of what we were to expect over the next two days. It was great to meet up with the guys once again and to have the chance to chat about our favourite subject - Genesis! After a quick bite to eat, the four of us (Jack, Serge, Duncan and I) were whisked back to Serge's house and his excitement at finally seeing the "Lamb..." slides was almost tangible. Duncan presented the huge box containing copies of all 1500 or so slides to Serge whose expression looked like Christmas and birthday had all come at once as he opened it (opening the musical box perhaps?) and we spent the next few hours in a haze of euphoria and alcohol (no Jack, I won't embarrass you here!). Eventually we turned in for the night, very tired but extremely excited about what the next couple of days had in store for us.

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Duncan shows off his secret box

We rose bright and early the following day and set off for the Spectrum in time to catch the soundcheck and to have a chat with the band and a few of the organisers. It was my great pleasure to meet up with two old friends; Brigitte Boulais and Francois Patry who were rapidly adopted as "Ma tente Bri-bri" and "Mon oncle Francois" for the duration of the rest of the trip! I left Duncan to the technicalities of show production and went to meet some other friends before show time which arrived so quickly it was astonishing. I returned to the venue in time to be roped in to helping prepare the compact disc and video packages which were part of the ticket price for these shows and to exchange Blackadder sketches with members of the roadcrew! The venue opened the doors and the scramble for the best seats began. The waiting became almost unbearable but eventually the curtain was drawn aside to reveal a huge pair of eyes and a smaller pair topped with batwings as the show opened with the truly awesome "Watcher Of The Skies". I had to rub my eyes a few times before I could actually realise that I was not in fact watching Genesis. The rest of the set was equally magnificent perfect performances of every song and to actually see this show as it was presented to the fans back in the mid 70's was something I will never forget! By the end of the first show I am sure that I was not the only one seeing the "Angel standing in the sky" as the apocalyptic glory of "Supper's Ready" brought the first show to an end. However, the band had a coupe of surprises for us and especially for Duncan and the expression on his face when they played the encore of "Can-Utility & The Coastliners" was priceless!

An hour or so went by in a haze of anticipation as we waited for the second show of the night and for this one we took our places front and centre which was really the only place to be. If anything, this second show was even more dynamic than the first and special kudos here to Christian Hebert's performance of "Horizons" which brought a lump to my throat and several tears to my eyes as well, it was just magnificent! The capacity crowd lapped up every move, every note and every nuance of the show and I was, by now, beginning to get a pretty good idea of what it must have been like to see the original show. Time passed all too quickly and once again it was all over bar the shouting of the crowd for more. Our expanding group of cheerleaders cheered ourselves hoarse with appreciation of what had been two absolutely shows. Tired, but very happy, we spent a good hour or so after the second show chatting amongst ourselves and it was my great pleasure during that time to meet several well know Paperlaters for the first time including Shawn Bishop, Jim Mahoney and his lady wife and Alex Araujo (muchas gracias mi amigo Argentino!) to name but a few.

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Alan with "Bri-Bri"

Surprisingly enough, we got off to another early start on Sunday and I spent a very pleasant day sightseeing with some old friends from the "CAS" tour - Tom Oastler and Mansoor Khaleeluddin and Sharon Jackson - as well as meeting up with some new friends including our very own juggling champion "Mr" David Hussey whose impromptu demonstration of his talents on the Montreal Metro was unforgettable. We all gathered at the venue and once again were front and centre for this performance from the classic "Foxtrot" period and the attention to detail was once again, incredible. Highlights of the show for me were the absolutely astounding performances of "Get 'Em Out By Friday" and "The Fountain Of Salmacis" which defied description.

This show was followed by a wonderful video presentation on "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" lovingly prepared by Serge and then a press conference at which the band answered the audience's questions before officially announcing their intention to stage "The Lamb..." here in Montreal in October this year, an announcement which was greeted by cheers from the crowd. Then it was all over, and for the next couple of hours, I spent my time saying my final goodbyes to all the people I had met; friends old and new who had helped to make these two days so special and I cannot finish this without saying "thank you" to some of them.

My grateful thanks go especially to Serge our host for the weekend and to Jack without whom I would not have made the original trip in the first place! Thanks to Duncan for his friendship and hard work both on this project and Strictly Banks (save a CD for me, Duncan!). Une remerciement tres grand aux amis Canadiens; "Ma tente Bri-Bri" Brigitte Boulais; "Mon Oncle" Francois Patry, Philippe Perreault; Andre Bazinet; Alain Granger; Raymond Cheynier, et surtout; les membre d'equipe La Boite a Musique - vous etes superbes!

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The Musical Box

Special thanks to Tom, Mansoor, Sharon, Cyndy, Dee and David "Sack the juggler" Hussey for yet another memorable trip and for the beer! Hi also to Veronique, Louise, Shawn, Adam, Alex, Jim, Scott and anyone else whom I may have forgotten.. you know who you are, and thank you - see you all in October!

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The Musical Box on stage