"Live Lamb.." The Musical Box presentation of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway reviewed by Alan Hewitt.

Anticipation for these gigs has been extremely high, The Lamb… is one of those albums which divides the Genesis fan base into believers and unbelievers. Until I had seen the first ever shows by The Musical Box of this album back in 2000, I had firmly belonged in the latter camp and my "conversion" was the subject of a previous feature in an earlier edition of TWR.

So, here we are five years after that event with an even more technically improved show. How did it compare to those initial gigs?

The Royal Albert Hall is without doubt one of the most prestigious venues any band can play anywhere in the world and a sense of "occasion" surrounded this gig. Taking my seat eventually after we had been told that our original seats had been "removed" on the day of the gig was the cause of some irritation but there we were seated on the side with an overview of the stage from the keyboard player's side of the stage which suited both myself and Stuart, my guest for this evening's performance we awaited the start of the gig.
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Eventually, the house lights dimmed and the band emerged on stage to roars from the crowd and the image of the Manhattan skyline filled the screens accompanied by the keyboard arpeggio that heralds the arrival of The Lamb… Denis Gagne bounded onstage as Rael and we were off on our trip down memory lane. Musically and visually the band have improved enormously since those 2000 gigs. I had not had the chance to see Martin Levac on last year's Selling England… tour but I had heard the reports about his uncanny resemblance to a certain P Collins both in the musical and physical sense and those reports, I have to say were absolutely accurate… his delivery was frightening and his vocals had me blinking to make sure that Phil had not sneaked onstage he really was THAT good!

The rest of the guys were equally as impressive with Sebastien Lamothe delivering some powerhouse bass lines and new guitarist Francois Gagnon taking Steve's licks and making them his own. Eric Savard was impeccable behind his keyboards and delivered his parts faultlessly too. There was a downside, however; for whatever reason it was; vocalist Denis Gagne was far too low in the overall mix and the acoustics of this hall in particular are such that it was difficult at times to hear what he was saying.

I don't know if it was just me, but I also got the impression that the band were hurrying through this show. I know that time does fly when you are having fun but I was left with the nagging suspicion that this was one show that the band simply wanted to get over and done. The Lamb… soon converted into The Musical Box and a healthy Watcher Of The Skies sent the audience into raptures as the show ended in a suitably orgasmic climax. However, my enjoyment of this gig was also marred slightly by the heavy handed behaviour of the band's security people who were quite literally snatching cameras off people. I know the band's strictures on the taking of photos although no one has ever satisfactorily explained why this is the case. After all… The Musical Box are a TRIBUTE BAND and NOT the real thing and it is quite amusing to read their request for fans to provide them with photos etc of the original shows whilst barring the same fans from taking photos of their recreation of it.

If I had only seen this show, I have to say that I would have been unsatisfied, however, the following night I had the chance to catch the show again and this time at one of the halls which had actually hosted the original show back in 1975. Birmingham Hippodrome is a magnificent theatre, similar in so many ways to the Empire Theatre here in my home town of Liverpool. This was much more like it, another great crowd including several dear friends who had seen the original show and whose reaction to this recreation of it I was intrigued to see.

It was a delight to see Dale Newman take the stage as the band's opening act for this gig. I had been disappointed to see that he was not their support for the London gig and so I was determined to catch him this time. He did not disappoint, delivering an excellent selection of new material and some amusing anecdotes to boot. If he was nervous, he did not show it and kudos to him for an extremely enjoyable opening act.

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This show was much more well paced and musically and visually excellent. Each pause in the story was greeted by loud and well deserved applause and the band looked much more comfortable here than they had done the night before. Once again though, the problem of the vocal mix remained and was the subject of conversation on the way home afterwards. This is a problem which should have been addressed during soundcheck and was once again the only fly in the ointment of an otherwise excellent show.

I attended the final show that I was to see on this tour in my own home city of Liverpool with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. I was fortunate enough to be able to meet up with Serge Morrissette; TMB's long suffering organiser before the show and had the chance to hear part of the soundcheck which even from backstage sounded incredibly LOUD! Chatting with Serge, he explained the situation re: Denis' vocal "problem". If the sound guy had mic'd Denis up louder, there would have been feedback from either Sebastien's bass or Martin's drums. The problem had apparently been solved by the simple expedient of persuading Denis to hold the microphone closer to his mouth!
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After saying my goodbyes to Serge and after collecting the items arranged for our next TWR competition, I adjourned to the local pub to meet up with some friends for a pre-gig pint and a chat before returning to the venue to take my seat. I wasn't sure about its location being up in the circle but upon arriving I discovered that I probably had the best seat in the house with regard to a view of the entire stage and lighting show. The house lights dimmed and the band took the stage and as soon as the opening keyboard phrases of The Lamb… began the old shivers were there and I knew I was in for a good night.

Musically, the show tonight was significantly louder than it had been at the previous two shows I had seen but also significantly clearer. This was nowhere more in evidence than during In The Cage where Denis Gagne and Martin Levac harmonised perfectly and Martin's delivery of Phil's vocal and percussive roles is simply breathtaking!

Other highlights included Hairless Heart in which guitarist Francois Gagnon had the chance to make one of Mr Hackett's trademark pieces his own to great effect. Throughout the entire show, Sebastien Lamothe had been the driving force on guitar, bass and bass pedals and his performance tonight was one of the best I have ever seen!

Visually, the show is impeccable and so tight that it takes the breath away. No effort has been spared in re-creating the visuals that made this show a landmark all those years ago and it has lost none of its effect - the Slipperman is still one of the most sublimely ridiculous visual moments in rock!

Soon the final strains of It faded and the crowd erupted into applause with a standing ovation which the band thoroughly deserved. All that remained now were the obligatory encores and these were not long in coming. The story of "little Henry and Cynthia" ushered in the band's signature tune… The Musical Box where once again, the performance was incredible and everyone deserves the kudos of the applause which followed. Finally the Watcher appeared and what a finale… it cannot get any better than this and the show was completed in fine style and a superb evening had finally come to an end.

This show has improved in leaps and bounds since I saw the very first shows back in October 2000. Musically it is tighter and that is in no small part due to the efforts of Francois Gagnon on guitar and the incredible Martin Levac who is absolutely stunning in his role as Phil Collins - a role which he obviously revels in. My initial reservations after the first performance have been completely blown away and anyone who is lucky enough to get the chance to see this spectacular show will see something they will never forget!