“Eurostar Superstars” – Genesis in rehearsal at the Flanders Expo, Brussels, Monday 4th June 2007. Review by Alan Hewitt.
Funny thing, isn’t it? A year ago if anyone had told me that Genesis were reforming and that I would be going to see them in rehearsal and in Brussels of all places…..! Well, I would have laughed.
Well, a year later and I still can’t get the inane grin off my chops because I did indeed receive a treasured invitation to attend the final rehearsal in Brussels – it still feels like a dream.
Arriving at the Flanders Expo, the first thing that struck me was the sheer scale of it. From the outside, the hall is enormous and it soon became obvious why this venue was chosen when we were admitted to the hall itself. The new stage show is, without doubt, the biggest I have ever seen for a Genesis gig. One enormous screen comprised of a myriad of smaller ones is the backdrop, supported by “ribs” which also hold a part of the lighting rig, is the backdrop in front of which the band’s equipment appears to be incredibly small. Further parts of the lighting gantry extend like greedy fingers out towards the audience. At each end of the stage a circular screen also appears.
Eventually being allowed into the venue, I found myself unbelievably in the best seat for a Genesis gig I have ever had:- direct centre with only a mere 20 empty feet of space separating me from the stage – a fan’s dream come true!
Having avoided any spoilers prior to the show (easy for him; he hasn’t got access to the internet! SB), I gave myself over to speculation about the show as we waited for the band to arrive. It was great to see some familiar faces among the luck attendees including Mario Giametti and Helmut Janisch as well as meeting up with various members of the band’s management including Annie Callingham and Carol Willis, both of whom have been so helpful to TWR over the years.
Show time eventually arrived and the band took the stage to as thunderous a reception as 200 plus people could give in such a big hall. Speculation now over, the band opened with a re-jigged version of the “Duke Suite”, comprising Behind The Lines, Dukes End and Turn It On Again. The band had indeed done exactly that, and the adrenalin was soon flowing both on stage and off!
No Son Of Mine followed with an even more impressive visual set up. It was soon also obvious that the band had dropped the key in several songs in the set to help Phil’s voice, but there was no sign of it here as the band tore through this epic track.
Land Of Confusion gave us all a bit of light relief before the glory that was In The Cage, replete with brand new visual effects. I wondered which “medley” would be attached to it this time only to be surprised by a new twist. Yes, Raven and Cinema Show were present and correct but this time accompanied by Duke’s Travels which segued perfectly into Afterglow at which point I was very near to doing my own impression of a Squonk! Afterglow was here in all it’s glory complete with dry ice and purple lighting – just like the good old days!
A surprise inclusion here was Hold On My Heart although it is obvious that it’s inclusion is to give both the band and Phil a chance to recuperate after their previous exertions and, if you are of a cynical nature; also to give the audience a “pee-break”!
Phil admitted that he hadn’t written a “scary story” that should accompany the next song yet but Home By The Sea doesn’t really need that much of an introduction anyway. Fundamentally the song hasn’t changed that much although the new visuals on the enormous screen look even more dramatic than before.
Memories of my first ever Genesis gig next with a stonking version of Follow You Follow Me. A simple song given a great work out by the band and the visuals throughout displaying references to the band’s previous albums was incredibly clever and effective.
Maybe it is not surprising to hear that the band followed this with the instrumental version of Firth of Fifth which really gave Daryl a chance to shine and he took it like the trooper he is, rifling like a man possessed. I was surprised by the inclusion of I Know What I Like – sans medley – a truly wonderful performance and one which brought back so many memories for me – and many others too, I am sure!
Another surprise was the inclusion of Mama, a song I know Phil has struggled with over the years – not surprising really, it places a great strain on anyone trying to sing it. The change in key certainly helped and Phil delivered an impressive vocal performance.
Seeing Mike pick up a double neck guitar made me wonder, and Phil’s reference to puberty didn’t help matters either, but nothing can really describe the way I felt when the band launched into Ripples, a song I have not had the pleasure of seeing them perform since 1978!
Contrasting the acoustic glories of that with the pop sensibilities of Throwing It All Away certainly gave a delicious counter point to the two sides of the Genesis persona:- prog/pop and personally I think it worked really well.
Domino has already become a classic and Phil’s storytelling has become even cheesier as the years go on. Even so, the song itself is another masterpiece of musical and vocal storytelling on the truly epic scale that only Genesis can achieve. Visually, Domino, like Home By The Sea, has always been stunning, but the new lighting and effects really have to be SEEN to be believed – stunning!
The drum duet between Phil and Chester has taken on almost legendary status but this time round the guys have taken in a new twist. I wondered why two chairs were situated between the two drum kits. Now was time to find out. As Phil and Chester got behind their respective kits, instead of battering the Hell out of them, they traded licks on the chairs instead. A wonderful acknowledgement of how the duet had been worked out in hotel rooms in the first place. Eventually of course, the two protagonists did get behind their kits for the rest of what is usually referred to as “five minutes of thunder” leading into a blistering Los Endos which was followed by the truncated version of Tonight, Tonight, Tonight, obviously to ease the strain on Phil’s voice.
Opting to close the show with Invisible Touch was both predictable in some ways – like it or not folks, it gets the crowd going – but also surprising given the fact that it is a bitch of a song to sing. The melody goes up and down like a yo-yo but Phil coped admirably.
The band took their well deserved bows and left the stage but no-one was in any doubt that they would return and they soon did with the opening beats of I Can’t Dance accompanied by even more brand new and amusing visuals. Phil prowled the stage like a hungry cat and soon had Mike and Daryl in tow as well.
The final encore was quote a surprise too. I expected an up-tempo finale but instead we got the sedate beauty of Carpet Crawlers which brought the proceedings to a suitable close.
And then it was all over. A two and a half hour show which encapsulated forty years of history by the greatest rock band on the planet. The overall impression of this gig is that an incredible amount of time, effort, thought and MONEY has been expended putting it together. The stage show is like nothing else I have ever seen in 35 years of gigs. Visually, the accompaniments are both appropriate and in places extremely clever. They augment but never overpower the music.
And it is the music that matters. A forty year career was celebrated here in glorious sound and vision. I have never seen a show like this one by Genesis or indeed by anyone else for that matter. The band looked relaxed and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves – even Tony was seen smiling on more than one occasion! On this showing, the forthcoming tour will be a roaring success for both the band and fans old and new – well done guys, fantastic job!