“A-roving we will go!” – TWR’s 20th anniversary tour report by Alan Hewitt.
Ah well, it had to be done really, didn’t it? A Genesis tour without some kind of TWR crazy tour had to be organised to mark the reunion of our heroes.
Planning began with a post-press conference pint (or two) on November 7th last year when myself, Stuart Barnes and Anthony Hobkinson began to discuss the likelihood of attending a selection of the “selection of shows” by the band in Europe and the UK. The two UK shows were obviously a given, but which European shows were going to fill out our itinerary? Anthony had already decided to attend the first gig in Helsinki (ah, the memories of ’98!).
Eventually, an itinerary presented itself in the shape of the last three German gigs before the UK shows with Berlin, Leipzig and Frankfurt to whet the appetite for the UK. Then it was a case of anticipation apart from the “detour” to Brussels for the rehearsal (see review elsewhere in this issue).
The day of departure eventually dawned and Stuart and I set out at an un-Godly hour to get through all the security checks at Heathrow before boarding our flight with Anthony and we were off to Berlin.
Berlin is a city that holds many fond memories for me. I had seen it before the wall came down and was present on Re-unification Day in 1990, although that particular visit is STILL somewhat shrouded in an alcoholic haze! The city certainly has changed since those days – for the better, I may add. But it was weird seeing the infamous “Checkpoint Charlie” as a tourist attraction.
Arriving at the stadium. A shiver went down my spine and images of the 1936 Olympic Games went through my mind. The external structure of the stadium had remained the same. Inside it was a well organised and enormous as so many of the stadia in this country. Eventually showtime arrived and the band took the stage to a huge cheer from the capacity crowd.
The set remained the same as it had been at the Brussels rehearsal, although with a 60,000 strong crowd behind them this time, the atmosphere was certainly a LOT more vibrant. It is difficult to pick out highlights from a show that was full of them, but tonight the performances of In The Cage, Ripples and Mama really got the emotions flowing and brought back so many memories. The audience too were in great form and really got behind the band from the very start. Even the rain which on occasions threatened to drown us didn’t really dampen any of the party spirit in the massive stadium.
Soon it was all over and the first gig had flashed by and we wended our merry way back to our hotel for a couple of celebratory libations before getting ready for tomorrow’s trip to Leipzig.
Leipzig is a place I had never visited before and so, I was looking forward to a new experience. The train journey was short and extremely comfortable and I was not entirely surprised when, on arriving at the station to see another familiar face in the shape of Richard Morris and his good lady, Valerie. Richard is another one of the handful of genuinely crazy fans whom you are guaranteed to bump into at almost any gig by the guys. After a few pleasantries we made our way to our hotel – a mere 2 minutes from the train station.
Eventually establishing that the stadium was a mere 15 minutes walk from the hotel, we had plenty of time to explore the city itself. And what a lovely place it was too. Plenty of history and as we discovered, some darn fine eateries too, including the BEST ice cream parlour I have ever seen!
The stadium here in Leipzig was considerably smaller than Berlin and brand new too, by the look of it. Nonetheless, it was soon filled to the brim with fans eager for the band to take to the stage. Our view this time round was from one side and rather reduced the effectiveness of the screens for us tonight.
Nonetheless, as soon as the band took to the stage, the audience were letting them know it was party time here in Leipzig and party they certainly did. The restricted view meant that tonight I focused on the playing and there was plenty to focus on. Daryl shone during In The Cage and Firth Of Fifth where he really made that solo all his own. Phil and Chester really went to town on the drum duet and Los Endos while Mike and Tony shone during Ripples and Afterglow. Phil’s hammy storytelling hasn’t really improved although he indulged himself in some serious audience baiting in the run up to Domino. All in all, another excellent gig.
Our trip to Frankfurt in the morning was to be a lengthy one and so post-gig celebrations were to be kept to a minimum tonight. The train journey to Frankfurt took over three hours but once again it was all done in comfort courtesy of the German rail network. Finding our hotel this time was a bit more of a problem and indeed getting to the gig itself looked like being quite involved but fortunately, once again, it was a lot simpler than expected. The Kommerzbank Arena is massive and to my surprise, when we entered it actually had a roof – well some sort of awning at least. Once again it was a capacity crowd and one which, like the two preceding gigs, was ready to celebrate the return of our heroes.
The set showed no deviation from the two shows before it and the band looked very contented and happy. Yes, Tony Banks was still smiling and in all, everyone on stage seemed to be having as much fun as we were in the audience. Once again, certain songs did stick in the memory. For me, tonight the performances of Follow You, Follow Me, No Son Of Mine, Ripples and In The Cage really hit the spot. Each and every one evoked so many personal memories for me that it is difficult to really explain how I felt in words, although ecstatic certainly comes close!
Daryl and Chester too certainly earned their salt. Daryl certainly has to be one of the most underrated guitarists and his performance on tracks such as In The Cage and Firth Of Fifth where he has brought his own character to the tracks which to some extent you may have taken for granted but when Daryl let rip with his own interpretation of these classics, he adds a new dimension to them. The same can be said of Chester, always the percussive powerhouse of the band, his playing, whether on his own while Phil was up front “wiggling his bum” or in ferocious combat with him such as the drum duet, gave the band an edge which was certainly necessary in these massive stadia.
A lay-off saw us travelling back to the UK at an un-Godly hour in the morning and a day of recuperation before the UK shows.
Saturday dawned fine and dry (a minor miracle in itself!) and we set off for Manchester, arriving after some small detours in plenty of time to take in the pre-gig “meet and greet” at The Bishop’s Blaize pub. A great chance to meet up with old friends and make some new ones too.
Eventually showtime arrived and the stadium was bathed in sunshine, the Gods had finally relented and as we took our seats all was set for another great night. The band looked genuinely surprised (and pleased) by the reaction as they took the stage and launched into the evening’s set. Phil’s introductions, so carefully worked out, really got even cornier and elicited howls of laughter from the crowd who were in very good spirits (and not all the alcoholic variety either, despite reports from other parts of the stadium).
Time certainly flew and the gig was over before we knew it and it had barely got dark! This was to be the only drawback to the UK shows. Venue curfews ensured that it was still daylight for the majority of the gigs which reduced the effectiveness of the visuals quite a lot. Nonetheless, it is the MUSIC that matters and in the marvellous surroundings of the “Theatre Of Dreams” the music did all the talking necessary.
One gig left…the Twickenham show could so easily have been an anti-climax but anticipation for this gig was every bit as high as it had been for the previous ones. Wandering around inside the stadium before showtime I was surprised and delighted to bump into a few old friends including Veronique Pelletier and the familiar face of Annie Callingham (Phil’s PA) for a brief chat. Even more surprising was having both Tim Brockman (head of security) and one Tony Smith say ‘Hello’ in passing too! Perhaps the final surprise was when the familiar faces of Kim Poor and Billy Budis wandered toward me. It was great to have the chance to speak to them both – Kim even asked me how Steve’s book was progressing! I didn’t see the great man himself but Kim assured me that he WAS there! It must have been strange for him watching this gig.
Anyway, on with the show. Our view from the side meant that effectively we saw very little of the screens again, but nothing was going to spoil the enjoyment of our final gig on the tour. The band too sensed the special atmosphere and pulled out all the stops. From the very start it was obvious that they were keen to have as much fun as the audience. Tonight the song that really did it for me was Ripples. Every note, every vocal sent shivers down my spine and tears to my eyes. The drum duet and Los Endos too really got the emotions going but really every song worked its own special magic over me, and the rest of the crowd too, I suspect – especially the guy sat next to me who was in raptures during Ripples too!
Even the rain, which had held off for most of the gig elicited a humorous riposte from Phil… “F*cking rain… I suppose I will be in trouble with the BBC for that too!” No-one really seemed to mind and by the time of the sedate finale of Carpet Crawlers, everyone had really enjoyed this special show and went away more than happy.
And then it was all over, five gigs in six days, memories that will live forever.
New friendships made and old ones rekindled in the best of Genesis traditions.
Who knows if we shall ever do it again, but to paraphrase the words of the song…
these are the days of our lives, so remember!