I can remember the first time I heard of The Musical Box. I had finished work and ran to the supermarket to cash my paycheque. Afterwards I ran over to the magazine section to browse the music papers. There was one with Mike Rutherford being interviewed about the then upcoming Calling All Stations tour. In the interview he mentioned someone showing him footage of a tribute band from Canada and "At first I thought it was us" I thought to myself, if one of the band members mistakes them for the real thing, these guys must be good!
Well, seven years later I had the good fortune of attending the rendition of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. I also had the misfortune of Ticketmaster losing my ticket in the mail, so I arrived early, picked up my replacement at "Will Call" and found my seat. The stage was set up in the following manner… The three slide projection screens directly above the band, the keyboards in the spot where you expect them to be the massive drum kit centre stage with its many percussive devices, to the left of that riser for "Mike Rutherford" and next to that a chair for "Steve Hackett" and in the centre of it all, a huge plastic rock.
A silhouetted Watcher appeared on the centre screen above the stage with his back to us. "We've written a big lump of story and music and tonight we'd like to play the whole thing for you… this is the story of Rael". The show then began with the familiar piano riff, the slide show following suit with the images of the New York City skyline. Thick fog engulfed the first few rows rolling off the stage. Denis Gagne, portraying the part of Peter Gabriel had moved to various microphones on both sides of the stage as well as underneath the stage for Cuckoo Coccoon. The thump of the bass in the intro of In The Cage rolled off the audience's flesh and Grand Parade Of Lifeless Packaging featured the same vocal processing as the album. After another instalment of Rael's story; we were Back In NYC. I never would have known it but at the end of the song the vocals featured are none other than "Mike Rutherford" duetting with "Peter Gabriel", both of them sharing the same mic stage left. After the brief interlude of Hairless heart with "Steve" switching between acoustic and electric guitars. Counting Out Time began. I had heard that the slide footage was very graphic on this song and the source was correct!
Soon it was another story and then Lilywhite Lilith appears on the screen followed by The Waiting Room. "Peter" left the stage and the four piece rave up a true evil jam with a lot of strobe and white lights blinding the audience. After Anyway we were introduced to The Supernatural Anaesthetist who was illustrated as Superlfy on a pogo stick, with his "Snuff Puff" gas moving through the bottom of his stick. Soon we were visiting The Lamia the tinkling piano intro sending shivers down the spine. I was surprised to see that the Lamia cone was not deployed from the top of the stage but underneath it. The cone spun and inspired the audience to sing along (to my surprise) to the line "we all have loved you Rael". The crowd just wouldn't shut up during the instrumental that is Silent Sorrow. Lots of people were crying and yelling out "shut up!" The Slipperman then made his appearance; lumps bumps and all. It seemed like the stage was a bit limited to where he could move but it was awe inspiring. After The Light Dies Down On Broadway it was time to ride the scree. "Steve Hackett" left the stage and the majority of the song was the three piece of "Tony" "Phil" and "Mike" jamming over the rhythm .
"Here I go!" Rael sings as he takes off his leather coat and jumps into the murky waters. Soon it was over as In The Rapids beginning with the lone guitar began to signal the end of the set. It ended the tale of Rael and his brother John, complete with the dummy stage right. Thunderous applause followed and the band returned for two encores. The tale of Henry and Cynthia was told in The Musical Box and we had a visit from our alien traveller in Watcher Of The Skies. I was extremely impressed with Watcher; the two menacing eyes staring at the audience from the slide screen. The only part of Peter's face you could see was around his eyes with the dayglo makeup. It left a vivid impression on me as I made my way out onto the street after the show.
A few other comments; Martin Levac did a dynamite job as Phil Collins. Not
only did he look like him (and he even wore an old New York shirt and sported
a beard) his harmony vocals were uncannily close to the original. Also there
was no bass guitar in the entire show, the bass pedals were used instead. One
disappointment in the original show, there were pyrotechnics at the conclusion
before It. They were absent from this show, most likely to do with the risk
of the danger it could have proved to the crowd in this small environment. All
in all it wasa very interesting show and it filled in a lot of the unanswered
questions I had had about the show. If you are a die hard or casual fan; make
sure you don’t miss this show if it comes to your area. As I left the venue
I couldn't help but feel a little jealous of my neighbours to the north who
get to experience this band more often than I do. All I can do is cross my fingers
and hope for a Selling England... tour.