"The Time Machine, Genesis Style (Part 2)" - The Musical Box in Concert at Southampton Civic Centre Guildhall Saturday 1st November 2003. Review by Steve Hewitt.
Back again - after locating friends, John and Claire at KFC,
we settle down in Row II (nine rows back in the stalls) and chat to new friend
Justin. After what seemed an eternity, the hall starts to fill. The lights dim
and the crowd welcome The Musical Box to the stage. As on Thursday, the Mellotron
starts to rumble as the Genesis machine takes off again - except this time a
pair of enormous eyes glare out from the stage behind Denis, now resplendent
in multi-coloured cape (along with the batwings). Watcher Of The Skies sounds
a little louder tonight, having just chatted about the apparent lack of volume
at the start of Thursday's performance . Admittedly, for the best effect the
floor should tremble at the start of Watcher…All the same the audience warms
up very quickly and now we can get into the songs from the album that is celebrating
its 30th anniversary - Selling England By The Pound.
The first "new" number being Dancing With The Moonlit Knight with its beautiful a-capella opening vocals. A few minutes in and the helmet and armour are shed as the song cranks up through the gears. Greenshield Stamps light up the screen as Gabriel word play and Genesis humour run amok. The knight appears on the horizon in front of an enormous rising moon and Denis stamps and shouts of the "fat old lady" playing fortune with credit cards. But soon the gold grows cold and the audience maintain their fascinated silence as the band waxes instrumentally with the meandering end passage - the kind of movement that would be so difficult for any current band to write and perform in this modern climate without being heckled. And so the voice of Britannia falls silent.
Then it is the turn of Rome & Juliet as Romeo deals with his metaphorical fungal growth and whisks Juliet off to The Cinema Show. Brightly coloured jacket contrasts with black cat suit but seems to provide visual reference or a certain uniqueness to this epic number. Between trips with Father Tiresias the lights are dropped save for 3 or 4 white spots cast on the now rotating glitter ball, filling the hall with moving stars - very simple, very effective, simply beautiful.
The lyric is completed and the mood changes with a classic Tony Banks chord change, then the band are down to three (a hint of things to come from the point of view of 1973). Slides of a romantic nature adorn the screens as this stunning instrumental section containing some of Tony's most intricate keyboard work to date (played perfectly by Mr Myers) is rewarded with enthusiastic applause from the grateful audience. The beauty of this show is that every song is a highlight!
"A little further Westwards…agriculturally speaking… "
as the original short-form of I Know What I Like breaks up these epics (about
time he purchased a hover mower). Slides of the artwork by Betty Swanwick provide
an excellent backdrop to this early chart hit for Genesis. A different story
to last year's introduces Firth of Fifth. It tells of thirsty persons "stomping"
five people to obtain the 80% water said to comprise the human body. The fifth
one; a Scottish gent who referred to his mouth as his firth, however was different
to the rest (something to do with Whiskey?). Full piano intro beautifully played
leads seamlessly into the song proper. The path maybe clear but the scene of
death still lies just below - which will come as no surprise if sirens can sing
as sweetly as Denis Champoux performs Steve Hackett's most famous guitar solo!
Clearly NOT eroded by the river of constant change.
After that suite of Selling England…songs it is time for an oldie… The same little Henry story introduces The Musical Box this time complete with the old man mask and slides of Victorian family portraits; old house interiors and children at play. I had come across a different story on a Foxtrot live recording ,not so obviously relating to the song but very amusing all the same - it's the story of Uncle Henry and the dirty kittens. Perhaps this story would have been better for Thursday but am sure opinions will vary.
Back to the new songs: More Fool Me gets an airing this year as new drummer; Martin Levac (who looks an awful lot like Phil circa 1981) leaves his drum kit to perform with acoustic backing by Sebastien Lamothe. Now, this is just one of the reasons I feel this show is an improvement over last year's.
As on the album (well…CD anyway) The Battle Of Epping Forest follows. This is another song that really comes to life on stage with Denis Gagne marching in front of the band with rifle (flute) and stocking mask supplemented with top hat and tails. After battle commences, the Reverend arrives and backward collar makes good representation, quickly reversed to reveal gaudy kipper tie as the devil corrupts his soul. Unlike last year, the drummer's microphone is on for "Louise" to have her say (another improvement - "you're telling me"). Two views of Peter in stocking mask appear on the slides screens (pin-up Guru?). Then the battle ensures once more.
Fans either love or hate this song. Now, especially after seeing it performed live, I love it! My friend ("Brother John") however, hates it and is still asking for that fifteen minutes of his life back! Slightly different this time is the story introducing the epic of epics. Tonight its more like the archive box set (disc 3) right down to the day dreaming drummer ("there's people out there!") but there are still some surprises in store as Horizons is played as an intro to Supper's Ready. Last Year Horizons was played instead of More Fool Me and before The Battle Of Epping Forest. It just gets better and better!
The props are all there; as they were on Thursday but on this tour the slides add to the performance. Autumn forests; the "Sanctuary Man" represented in a strange mosaic or (un)stained glass effect, trees and bird silhouettes (a precursor to Raven?), flowers (of course) and two scary moon faces later consumed by flames as the apocalypse consumes all.
I had hoped to see the "flying singer" thing at the end of the song, but then that would have been early '74 wouldn't it? I have it on good authority that The Musical Box tried this once, back home in Montreal (the photo is in the tour book on page 19). By all accounts it is even harder than it looks. So, the black cape is lost during very bright pyrotechnics that have the uncanny ability of surprising you, even when you know they are coming. Now, if I said the applause was loud on Thursday…well, say no more …
This being the tour when Genesis ended the set with what they
considered to be the best thing they had done to-date, encores were rare (but
NOT unheard of). The rare encore of The Knife is performed at each of the Musical
Box Selling England… shows (as far as I know) and once again its energy just
blows everyone away (or was it the strobes?). The second standing ovation tonight
is the signal for the lights to come on and no one is going to moan about a
fantastic two hours spent in such superb style.
Many thanks to the guys from Canada - we look forward to The Lamb (!?!).
Yes, we know this ticket was for the previous night......!