"Helsinki to Manchester……..via Croydon" - A different view of TWR's European tour by Anthony Hobkinson.

I am 45 years old. At last, this year, I lost my virginity.

Before you start wondering if you have inadvertently strayed on to the wrong web site, I had best explain what I mean. Until 2007 I had never seen Genesis (or for that matter any band) on foreign soil, unless of course you count the Duke tour when I saw Genesis in Coventry. (Note for readers: Warwick University is not in Warwick, it’s on the outskirts of Coventry. Lesson – check the small print of any prospectus and never apply to a university you have not visited.)

The seeds were sown in The Crown Pub in Chiddingfold the same evening Genesis announced their tour dates (i.e. several weeks after we all knew where they were going). Replete with beer/wine, a map of Europe was scrutinised. Now, after a few sherbets ambition takes over. We were going to do Amsterdam, Paris and most of Germany. Thankfully the morning brought common sense and we settled on Berlin/Frankfurt/Leipzig, which were to be followed by the two UK dates at Twickenham and Old Trafford.

It was only later that I had a stroke of genius and remembered that important client in Helsinki I hadn’t seen for a few months! He even liked Genesis – result!! The only drawback (or added benefit, depending on your point of view) was that I would have to do Helsinki sans Hewitt and Barnes, as the TWR fan base and generosity does not yet spread that far.

But first came the bonus of the Brussels rehearsal. I’d had to put up with a month of listening to our editor and webmaster telling me they were looking forward to it …”we’ll send you a post card” (they are such nice people). Then a last minute call from a friend just two days before the rehearsal to tell me I was on the list. I admit it – I jumped up and down in our kitchen (not a pretty sight) shouting “yes, yes, YES!!!” It was a real Meg Ryan moment. And the best bit? You know that scene on the Eurostar from Mission Impossible when the cops arrive and the spy boss realises she has been had? Well, if you had seen Mr H’s face when I calmly sat down next to him on the train – priceless! He had no idea I was going until that moment and if he’d been a pace-maker wearer he’d be 6 feet under by now! Front row dead centre was the result. Mr H reckons he was more central than I was, but my photos prove otherwise – sorry Stu, will get them to you one year.

As D-day neared for the gigs themselves, I have to confess I was somewhat apprehensive on a few fronts. First, would they be “up to it”? I don’t mean could they still play the songs – the band have always been very gifted musically – but would you still feel the power and emotional pulls of the songs or would it somehow be a let down? The second concern was whether I’d get bored. Bored?!! Well, no matter how passionate you are about something, it occurred to me that it might be asking a lot to expect to be entertained/moved by the same concert and set list 8 times, the Germany/UK legs meaning 5 concerts in 6 nights. The 3 earlier shows were the Brussels rehearsal, Helsinki, and Croydon cinema for the Dusseldorf broadcast. (Note for readers: Croydon is twinned with Coventry and definitely counts as part of the foreign tour.) My third worry was whether Phil’s voice would stand up to the test as the tour progressed.

Well, suffice it to say that I needn’t have worried. I won’t go into the details about the concerts, as our webmaster and editor have done that admirably elsewhere. I guess all I wanted to say was that in my opinion the guys do still have it – yes they are not as slick/fast as they used to be, and Phil can’t hit those high notes any more, but when you look at those guys on stage you really do get reminded what a talented bunch of musicians they all are, and that much of their music was in always meant to be played live. Sure, Los Endos sounds great on the stereo with the volume cranked up, (and even better on the SACD 5.1) but boy, when you see and hear it live and the bass travels through your entire body – wow! (Why else do a lot of tribute bands do so well?)
Great set list, just a shame they had to do Hold on My Heart. Yes, I know it gave Phil a “break”, but couldn’t they just have got Daryl to play Horizons instead? Stage was great too, but only if you sat in the right place. If you had the misfortune to sit on the side too far in you couldn’t see much of the middle section at all. In fact you almost needed to be near the half way line before you could see it properly on the side – a bit of a design cock-up I reckon, which was a shame as the effects when you could see them were spectacular. And finally, to my surprise Phil’s voice just seemed to get better as the tour went on.

Perhaps more importantly, however, I wanted to share with you some practical tips I managed to pick up so that any other foreign virgins out there are better prepared should they feel tempted to take the plunge when Peter Gabriel joins the band for The Lamb Lies Down (Because It Can No Longer Stand Up) German Tour in 2028. (I have it on reliable authority that they are playing 654 German dates, and 1 at Milton Keynes.) My Six of the Best are as follows:

1. Ein stein is a large beer and not a scientist.
2. “Noch einmal” is the most useful German phrase (see 1. above)
3. Nein doesn’t always mean no. No photography doesn’t seem to include “compact” cameras or mobile phones.
4. But size matters! When they say no photography, what they really mean is that if your camera looks like you might know what you are doing then you are in deep doo doo. (I am afraid I didn’t catch the name of the very nice gentleman in Leipzig who wanted me to delete all my photographs. Honest, I would have out stared him, but I didn’t have my stepladder with me.)
5. Never try to explain to a very large German security guard that all the other cameras he doesn’t object to have a similar zoom and number of pixels. Just smile and say “Ja!”.
6. Get the TWR webmaster to book the hotels – who else do you know who can book an airport hotel, only to get there and find it is nowhere near the airport, but it just happens to be a 10 minute walk from the concert venue – result or what!
Click to enlarge
Nür ein stein, bitte!
Photo: S Barnes/TWR

Anyway, it was a blast. Mr B and Mr H were excellent company. Let’s hope it’s not the last one as I seem to have developed a taste for it……..so much so that it’s next stop Cleveland Ohio!!