"The Carpet Crawlers' First Crawls" - The Carpet Crawlers' first gigs at The Mersey Clipper Tranmere Thursday 30th June 2005 and The Barbacoa Waterloo Liverpool Tuesday 19th July 2005. Review by Alan Hewitt.

A telephone conversation with a friend of mine alerted me to the impending arrival of yet another "new" Genesis tribute band on the scene. I have to admit that I treated this news with a healthy degree of scepticism; after all; there has been an awful lot of rubbish spouted on certain fora by what I term the "garage" tribute bands (i.e. those that TALK about forming a band but never actually DO it whilst perpetually criticising those that actually DO perform for either their chosen set lists or instrumentation or lack of it, etc - yes you know who you are, DON'T you??!!). Fortunately, the friend in question happens to have played in a couple of PROPER bands in his time and so I was prepared to give him and his fellow madmen the benefit of the doubt.

Over the last couple of months I was kept informed about how things were progressing and was delighted to hear that a couple of gigs had been lined up after a surprisingly short time span and the first of these took place recently with yours truly in attendance at both of them. Upon arriving at the venue the band were still setting up and sound checking and even the sound check sounded impressive. My eyes were immediately drawn to the two drum kits at the back of the stage… interesting I thought. I had deliberately avoided enquiring about what tracks the band would play at these inaugural gigs so that my opinion of it would be totally influenced by what I saw and heard on the night.

Bravely, the band opened with Watcher Of the Skies replete with a hilariously be-costumed lead singer but the hilarity of the amateurish attempt at haute couture was dismissed by the amazing performance of the track itself which was delivered flawlessly by all concerned. Healthy doses of more Gabriel era material followed with renditions of I Know What I Like; Back In NYC and The Lamb… all of which elicited the obligatory cheers from the enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd which filled the venue and I was already suitably impressed.

Then came the only black mark of the night as far as I was concerned. The band's guitarist MUST learn not to take liberties with Horizons… this was a badly botched job and one which he will learn from I hope, maybe a case of first gig nerves, perhaps? Fortunately, he immediately redeemed himself with a mind blowing rendition of 11th Earl Of Mar which definitely brought a tear to my eye and for all the right reasons - this was the stuff that I had wanted to hear played so much over the years and here at last was a band in my own part of the world doing exactly that! Kudos to the rhythm section of drummer Neil Carter and bass player Peter Brew on this one - they couldn't have done it better!

More classics followed with a stunning interpretation of Firth Of Fifth and Steve's ethereal guitar lines were seamlessly woven into the keyboard arpeggios to make a complete tonal picture nicely topped off by a superb vocal delivery. Harmony vocals are something that you do not usually hear at Genesis tribute gigs but they were here in spades during a glorious rendition of Entangled which sent shivers down my spine as indeed did the funkified version of Follow You Follow Me with Peter, the bass player injecting some seriously funky bass lines into this great little song.

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Photos: A Hewitt/TWR
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Attempting to re-create the classic In The Cage medley was another brave step among so many that the band had attempted and everything was going superbly well until an unexpected power failure brought the entire proceedings to a dramatic halt. Fortunately normal service was resumed and the band gamely picked up the ball and ran with it to conclude the medley with a glorious version of Afterglow which brought the house down.

How could you follow that? Well amazingly enough the band still had enough energy to Turn It On Again and finally close the show with their "theme tune" a brilliant rendition of Carpet Crawlers (a-la 1999 version) which was surprisingly better live than it had been on record!

Two weeks later and the band are back in action at one of my old stomping grounds. The Barbacoa is an unlikely place for a Genesis tribute band to play… it is a rather swish bar/restaurant these days but nonetheless, it was packed with fans eager to hear the band.
Set wise, it was a very similar show to the previous one although unrecognisable in places because the musicians have improved in leaps and bounds (and that is saying something because they set a HIGH standard at the first gig!). Andy Keegan, the keyboard player had overcome his initial problems and was in great form as indeed were the rest of the band and the show itself was a vast improvement over the previous one until gremlins struck again at the outset of the In The Cage medley when technology rather than musicianship, failed the band again.

However, after taking a "hammer" to the recalcitrant piece of kit that had so dramatically failed; the band resumed the show, ditching the medley in favour of a glorious Afterglow and rounding off with Turn It On Again. The problems didn't appear to have spoiled the show for the audience who warmly applauded the band off stage and another gig was under their belts.

So, there you have it. The very first gigs by this latest addition to the Genesis tribute band scene. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination; there are still areas which need work and the guys are well aware of that themselves. My criticisms are mainly cosmetic rather than musical. First of all: ditch the costumes; they are, to be blunt - AWFUL, and really are not necessary; the music does the talking and that’s all that should matter; leave that kind of frippery to the likes of ReGenesis and The Musical Box who carry it off so much better anyway. Andy Keegan; the band's keyboard player; acquitted himself extremely well bearing in mind that these were his very FIRST gigs in ANY band and given time he will get over the problems which any first timer will have. If Chris the guitarist can control himself a bit more he has Messrs Hackett and Stuermer's licks off to a tee and the rhythm section have no problems as far as I could see; they were
the backbone of the band and did their job to perfection. As for Brian the vocalist/guitarist/ flute player/drummer; well he has my thanks for not trying to sound like either Gabriel or Collins; he has the necessary patter (well he IS a Scouser after all!) and carried the delivery of this material with all the necessary skill to enable you to suspend your disbelief which is what you always have to do at a tribute band gig anyway and if he takes my advice and gets rid of the unnecessary trappings I can see a long and prosperous future for this band.

Yes, I enjoyed myself immensely. Here were a band who were determined to entertain and who managed to rise above the technical problems which have floored lesser bands. Those technical problems do need to be addressed, however, before they become too problematic. The sceptics will say that their set is almost identical to certain other bands' set… so what! It will change and evolve in much the same way that any band's repertoire does - and besides, how many times do us Northerners get to see these bands up here anyway?!
Carpet Crawlers are not trying to be anything else other than another great tribute to the music of Genesis and for that they should be applauded. The "Garage Band" members will still moan about the difficulty of getting time off for rehearsals and gigs etc… well, sorry guys… this band have managed both and they all have FULL-TIME DAY JOBS too so what's your excuse going to be this time? They can hold their heads up with pride and I look forward to seeing them again soon. Thanks for two great nights, guys!

Set List (Mersey Clipper): Watcher Of The Skies/I Know What I Like/Back In NYC/The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway/Musical Box (Closing Section)/Horizons-Blood On The Rooftops Medley/11th Earl Of Mar/A Trick Of The Tail/Firth Of Fifth/Entangled/Squonk/ Follow You Follow Me/In The Cage-Cinema Show-Raven-Afterglow/Turn It On Again/Carpet Crawlers 99.

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