"A long, long way to drive..." - Face Value live at the Sheldon Marquee, Birmingham on Saturday 21st October 2006. Review by Anthony Hobkinson.

TWR’s very own webmaster is a good salesman. I was promised a Saturday evening out watching a Phil Collins and Genesis tribute band and a chance to interview the band. What he didn’t mention was the 4am return home, that we’d be going in my car, and that part of the deal was that I would write up the gig afterwards. So, was it all worth it?

Even before Stuart came clean with the full details I have to confess I did have some reservations. Conventional wisdom says that there is room for both Genesis tribute bands and Phil Collins tribute bands, but what about a band that mixes them together? Now I love all Genesis music apart from one track – no prizes for guessing which one. I love a lot of Phil Collins music. But, if you exclude one or two singles, the later Genesis material is quite different from Phil’s solo work (despite what some of the anti-Phil Genesis brigade might tell you). So, does playing Easy Lover, and Sussudio (yuk!) alongside Home By the Sea/Second Home By the Sea and Fading Lights really work? The sort answer is, somewhat to my surprise, a resounding yes.

The reason it all works ultimately comes down to the band itself. Let’s take the lead singer: apart from being very similar vocally to Phil, John Wilkinson has an infectious on stage personality. The songs are interspersed with some crowd-pleasing banter, much of which was strangely familiar (“tonight we are going to sing some new songs”……..”now, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for, it’s audience participation time….”). The Collins type repartee aside, including a respectable re-enactment of part of the Collins tambourine dance, John’s smile and tongue in cheek comments tell you he is not trying too hard to replicate Phil, but giving you his own John Wilkinson cheeky chappy version, and good it is too.

It is clear from John’s approach, and from talking to the band, that they do not take themselves too seriously. What they do however take very seriously is the music. In the same way that Tony Banks is the backbone of Genesis, so the keyboard player Tony Cole is the spine of Face Value. Tony had managed to cram 8 keyboards on to the small stage, and the results were very impressive. From the haunting lilt on Home by the Sea, to the rippling sequence just before the final chorus in Follow You Follow Me, the sound, feel, and tempo were spot on. Sure, a lot of the keyboard sounds are samples which are triggered by the press of a button, but you don’t get everything so perfect and the links so smooth without hours and hours and hours of work and practice.

Will Smith’s guitar work is similarly impressive. He looks completely at ease whether playing rhythm or dealing with the fast and intricate fretwork such as in the Easy Lover guitar solo. An understated performer, but perhaps more in the Stuermer mould than Rutherford stylistically, he looked totally comfortable throughout the show. Occasionally the mix meant the guitar was not as much to the fore as it should have been in tracks like Home, but we’re nit-picking at this stage.

Wrexham (which just happens to be near Chester) Thompson completes the line up on drums. The Roland TD8 and TD20 V-Drum modules, combined with the Octopad drum pads, are very effective in recreating the later Genesis sound and Phil Collins sounds alike. Wrexham is not a showy drummer; he just does what he does efficiently and with minimum fuss. That doesn’t mean he lacks passion, far from it, it’s just he makes it all look pretty relaxed which is no mean feat with some of the Collins fills and licks he has to produce.

And the set? We were treated to nearly 3 hours of music. Opening with No Son of Mine (complete with accurate elephant intro, care of Tony) we were soon into a trio of crowd pleasers: Something Happened on the Way to Heaven, Against All Odds and That’s All. Before long we were into Home By The Sea - a brave choice I thought in a pub in which many would only know the Genesis singles and Collins stuff - which was going swimmingly until some idiot decided to try their hand, literally, on keyboards with Tony. (Listen: this is hard enough as it is, and, by the way, if you are going to try to apologise, don’t try to do it when Tony is still in the middle of a demanding solo.)

Home was followed by a rather unconvincing version of Many to Many. It’s a fantastic, rich song, but, unlike the rest of the set it sounded more like a cover than the real deal. This one disappointment was however pretty quickly forgotten, the band delivering a hugely impressive rendition of Mama during which everything gelled perfectly.

After a well earned break we were treated to a medley of hits – I Can’t Dance, Invisible Touch, Land of Confusion (another highlight guys but please turn the guitar up!) and then another highlight, Fading Lights. A trio of Collins hits saw a good crowd on the dance floor, who quickly turned into the Face Value chorus line. Before too long we were all singing along (raucously, and in some cases badly – take a bow Mr Editor) to Afterglow and I Know What I Like, followed by the closing number, Take Me Home. By this time the pub crowd was in the palm of John’s hand. You somehow knew the band would have kept on playing all night if the landlord of the Chestnut had let them.

Face Value are a genuine tribute band, not a cover band. The difference? They clearly love the music. They spend hours honing it to perfection. They have also developed a light show that is streets ahead of most of their immediate competitors, even if we did not see the full version due to the lack of room on stage (take a bow, Doctor Dave). What’s more, they are such a nice bunch of guys with it. OK, so I’d have preferred to see some Trick of the Tail material included. All I can say for now however is that if Face Value are in your area go and see them. And if they are not in your area, get in a car and go and see them. You won’t be disappointed.

Full Set List: No Son of Mine, Something Happened on the Way to Heaven, Against All Odds, That’s All, I Wish it Would Rain Down, Jesus He Knows Me, Follow You Follow Me, Home by the Sea/Second Home by the Sea, Many Too Many, Another Day in Paradise, In The Air Tonight, Mama, I Can’t Dance, Invisible Touch, Land of Confusion, Fading Lights, Throwing it All Away, Can’t Hurry Love/Two Hearts, Sussudio, Easy Lover, Turn it on Again, Afterglow, I Know What I Like, Take Me Home.