"From blizzard to ice rink" - Memories of the Abacab and Three Sides Live tours by Alan Hewitt.
No more wailing and gnashing of teeth by yours truly this time! Having whetted my appetite for the live Genesis "experience" back in 1978 and then missing the 1980 tour; I was definitely hungry for more when the announcement of Genesis's tour plans in support of the Abacab album was made.
A ticket was duly ordered for the band's first show at the newly opened National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham and unlike the poor soul whose letter was published in the tour programme; I remembered to enclose my SAE!! By the time the precious ticket thudded through the letterbox, I was already fully conversant with the new album: Abacab. Having spent the last four years on catch up duty gradually immersing myself in their capacious back catalogue, I was extremely disappointed by the band's new sound and from the reports I heard from several of the European shows; in particular Leiden; it appeared that I was not the only one. 1981 was to be a year of such contrasts. Steve Hackett had released the Cured album earlier in the year and that had elicited a similar response from me at the time. Ironically enough, I narrowly missed attending the infamous Genesis gig at Leiden where the fans made their displeasure over the new sound known in no uncertain terms; because I had already secured excellent tickets for Steve's show in my home town on the same night. Sufficiently re-assured by Steve's impeccable performance, I was more than willing to give Genesis the same benefit of the doubt.
|Eventually the day of the concert arrived and I set off for the National Exhibition Centre with a mixture of anticipation and dread. England was in the grip of the worst winter since the year I was born and it had been snowing heavily in the day or so prior to the gig and causing the usual chaos on the road and rail networks. The train crawled painfully slowly towards its destination and I became convinced that we would never make it but eventually the train pulled into Birmingham's International Station and soon I was within the hallowed portals of the NEC complex. With a few hours to kill before the doors opened I met up with a few equally keen fans for a couple of pre-gig pints before joining the queue to take my seats.|
Finally ensconced in my second row seat having already purchased the now customary T shirt and tour programme, I was beginning to get that familiar tingle of excitement as showtime approached. Would this show be as marvellous as the 1978 gig had been? How much of the new stuff would we have to endure? These and a million other questions ran through my mind as I waited for the show to begin.
Eventually the house lights dimmed and the band took to the stage to a thunderous roar from the crowd. I was delighted to hear Behind The Lines and Duchess opening the set and giving me a glimpse of what I had missed from the previous year's tour. A real surprise came next with The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway which drove the crowd crazy and my initial doubts about the performance began to recede.
|The first helping from the new album followed with the rock trio that is Dodo/Lurker and Abacab itself. The studio versions gave absolutely no idea how powerful these tracks would actually be in the concert setting and I immediately began to re-appraise the album whilst cheering my head off! The band, ever the ones for new stage set ups had invested heavily in the creation and design of a new lighting system; the Vari Lite which is nowadays a standard piece of stage kit but back in 1981 it was a revolutionary development in stage lighting and it certainly came into its own during these tracks throwing shapes and colours all over the stage and out into the audience as if the stage was an entity of its own.|
More new stuff followed in the shape of Man On The Corner, Who-Dunnit and No Reply At All which garnered mixed reactions from the crowd. Who-Dunnit in particular had been the source of much discussion among fans and indeed the target of much of the booing at the Leiden gig. No such antics here though. Funnily enough, much as I still detest the album version of this track; I have to admit that live it worked remarkably well; especially with the creative use of the new Vari Lites which drew gasps from the crowd.
|Firth Of Fifth and Me And Sarah Jane served as nice bookends of the old and the new before the real trip down memory lane began with a startling medley comprising In The Cage, Cinema Show, the Colony Of Slippermen leading into a truly orgasmic version of Afterglow and even thinking of that performance still sends shivers down my spine some 24 years later! No doubt, one of the things that certainly gave added impetus to these shows was the creative use to which the new lights were put. At times it was difficult to see where the stage ended and during the "In a trap.." chorus to In The Cage they surrounded Phil with white beams like the bars of a cage and who can forget the magnificent display that enveloped the band at the climax of Afterglow?|
From then on it was a frantic run through yet more classics. Turn it On Again merged into Dance On A Volcano and the thunderous finale of Los Endos which simply took the breath away. Howling for more the crowd were never going to let the band get away without an encore and it wasn't long in coming in as the band swung into a full-blooded version of I Know What I Like which got full participation from the crowd who were by now fully entranced by the magic that the band had woven. Then it was all over, and all that remained was the even longer journey home, tired but exhilarated. Genesis had woven their usual spell and I was delighted to have been a part of it.
|And now we move our story onwards a few months to the summer of 1982… By now, I was fully conversant with the band's catalogue and that of its solo members with numerous solo gigs under my belt too and equipped with my own stock of gig "stories" to regale my fellow fans with!|
1982 was a special year. My first trip abroad for a gig had taken place a scant two weeks before the events I am to outline here with the marvellous trip to Hamburg which has been described in an earlier edition of TWR. Now it was the UK's turn and three consecutive nights; two at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham and the third at the Leisure Centre in Deeside which is the focus of this part of the story. Having seen the shows in Hamburg and Birmingham, it was a certain degree of smug satisfaction that I boarded the coach to Deeside, surrounded by mainly unsuspecting fans who had little idea of the treat that was in store for them.
|The "Leisure Centre" at Deeside was little more really than a large ice rink covered over for the purposes of tonight's gig. Not the most salubrious of venues but somehow it managed to generate an atmosphere all of its own. Knowing what to expect from the performance, I was able to derive a great deal of pleasure from the reaction of the unsuspecting fans around me as the show unfolded. Instead of taking the easy option of retaining the same set for what was, after all an extension of the Abacab tour; they didn't. The set was revamped to include a couple of surprises.|
Phil's between-song banter hadn't improved as he hammed it up for the crowd urging them to stop pushing to the front because the pour souls down there were getting severely crushed nipples! He also exploited the regional rivalries between Liverpool and Manchester before asking if there were any fans in from Portugal?! The opening salvo of Dance On A Volcano, Behind The Lines and Follow You Follow Me was followed by the new trio of Dodo, Lurker and Abacab which by now had fitted nicely into the set with fans shouting out for Abacab before it was even played - some change from the reaction at certain 1981 shows, eh? Anyone who doubted that Genesis could "rock" should do themselves a favour and listen to any of the bootlegs listed in the feature elsewhere in this edition and of course to the resultant live album: Three Sides Live which proves the point emphatically, I think!
|I was fully prepared for what came next as Phil teased us with the story of the song which is "celebrating its tenth birthday tonight… This one has lots of LOUD bits… (cheers) and lots of quiet bits (cheers). This then is Supper's Ready!" I already had my fingers in my ears to avoid being deafened by the resulting cheer as Phil made this announcement and I wasn't disappointed! Hearing the band merge such classics with their more recent material and have the majority of it work well was quite a surprise. Even the juxtaposition of Supper's Ready and Misunderstanding worked as a complete contrast which only served to emphasise how much the band had continued to evolve and challenge themselves and their fans.|
Man On The Corner and Who-Dunnit gave further examples of how far the band had taken gambles on not remaining rooted to their past and once again; just as it had done last year; Who-Dunnit became a perversely successful highlight to the show - aided no doubt by the ever improving Vari Lites which went into overdrive during this song.
The remainder of the gig was a pure trip down Memory Lane for us (and the band themselves, too I suspect) as we were dragged kicking and screaming with delight through In The Cage replete with medley to an cataclysmic Afterglow before the band Turn(ed) It On Again and unleashed the now famous "five minutes of thunder" that was the drum duet intro to Los Endos which threatened to bring the roof down!
Following this with The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway was inspired but as usual; there was a twist (or should that be a "trick"?) in the tail this time as the end of the track segued into the arpeggio from Watcher Of The Skies which really did lift everything to another dimension and left everyone drained, physically and emotionally and cheering for more!
The band took their extremely well deserved bows and left the stage but their was no way that they were going to leave without at least one more performance and I don't think anyone was in any doubt as to what it was going to be. As soon as the hum of Tony's keyboard/lawnmower started up the crowd were ecstatic as we were taken even further "westward" with the wonderful tale of the "Cosmic lawnmower" that is I Know What I Like, complete with extremely vociferous audience participation letting the band know that they hadn't lost any of that special magic that only ever happens at Genesis gigs.
Then it was all over for another tour, apart from a little get together at Milton Keynes a few days later but THAT is another story for another edition of TWR!