“The Changing Of The Guard” - Face Value in concert at the Pacific Road Arts Centre Birkenhead on Saturday 4th December 2010. Review and photographs by Alan Hewitt.

It has been a busy time for most of the Genesis tribute bands recently. Just about every one of them have experienced some form of change to their lineup during the last few months and Face Value have not been immune to this either. First of all, they recruited former Carpet Crawlers guitarist Chris O’Connell into the band and tonight’s show was an emotional one as founder member and keyboard player extraordinaire Tony Cole was hanging up his keyboards and moving on to pastures new.

With all of that in mind, I was sure that tonight’s gig would be a special one and sure enough, I was right. Opening with the now standard salvo of The Duke Suite and Turn It On Again the band were in fine fettle right from the off. Chris traded some ferocious licks with Tony throughout the opening and the tone was set for the rest of the evening. No Son Of Mine has seldom sounded better to my ears, John brought just the right amount of emotion to the performance making it a special moment in the show.

Land Of Confusion segued nicely into the first bona fide classic of the evening; the awesome Many Too Many, which has become a firm favourite of mine in the band’s repertoire and they delivered it flawlessly tonight. A real surprise came next though as the end of Many Too Many morphed into the closing section of The Musical Box, a real surprise but one which worked extremely well. The entire band had obviously greeted the chance to perform this one with collective glee and the grin on Chris’s face gave the game away.

This was a show of contrasts and you couldn’t have more of one than that between Jesus He Knows Me and Follow You Follow Me. John gave us his best cod evangelical speech which almost had me ready with my $18,000,000 (almost but not quite!). The sense of fun that is an integral part of this band really shone through on this one and it was followed by a superbly performed version of Follow You… on which both John and Tony excelled - memories of 1978 filled my mind during this one.

The finale to the first half of the show was yet another pair of contrasts. Tony ushered in another classic slice of Genesis with the intro to Firth Of Fifth which got a well deserved cheer from the crowd, the song grew in majesty and drama until it was time for Mr O’Connell to take on the mantle of Mr Hackett which he did with breathtaking ease while John and Wrex provided the icing on a superbly presented musical cake. Mama, closed the first half and was every bit as enjoyable as its predecessor. An enormous song and one requiring lungs of steel which, thankfully Mr Wilkinson does possess. He prowled the stage acting out his character while the rest of the band, Wrex especially, provided equally dramatic accompaniment.

Not much rest for the wicked (and the audience) as the band returned to the stage to launch the second half of the gig with a hard rockin’ version of Abacab on which Tony, Chris and Wrex shared the honours. With the emphasis on Genesis’ catalogue tonight, In The Air Tonight was the first of only two Collins solo songs to be performed tonight. Well… no Face Value show is complete without it really and even though Wrex bears no resemblance to a certain drumming gorilla (despite some opinions to the contrary - not me, honest!), he certainly didn’t let that stop him as he hammered seven shades of you-know-what out of his kit.

The hard rocking continued with a truly amazing performance of the Zeppelin -inspired Squonk. Once again, Wrex delivered a solid platform on which the rest of the band, John and Chris especially, brought home the musical bacon, definitely the highlight of the evening for me this one!

Pee break time for me next. Sorry guys, Throwing It All Away is a song that I detest with a passion but hey, the crowd seem to like it so what do I know? Normal service was resumed however, as the “domino principle” was explained to an expectant audience by John. This is a song which demands the highest standards from each and every player and the band’s mettle was truly tested here but they came through in truly professional style bringing another latter day classic to ever so vivid life for me and the crowd.

Once again, Afterglow didn’t cut the mustard tonight. It really does not work as a stand-alone track and although musically excellent as you would expect from a band of this calibre, it sounded strangely out of place tonight. Los Endos restored the balance however with the musical core of the band in perfect synch with each other throughout what was a breathtaking performance.

A respectful version of Carpet Crawlers led into a frenetic pairing of Tonight, Tonight, Tonight and Invisible Touch which brought the show proper to a suitably climactic ending. How the hell John had any vocals left after this is beyond me so kudos to him for delivering both tracks with such vigour and energy.

After a short break the band returned for the compulsory encores and an emotional John let the audience know that it was Tony’s last gig before the whirr of the Cosmic Lawnmower heralded I Know What I Like complete with audience participation a truly marvellous and very emotional performance led into the only song that can close a Face Value gig; Take Me Home which was another one charged with emotion and both band and audience took their parts very seriously and gave Tony the kind of send off he has so richly deserved.

Then it was all over. Difficult to believe that ten years had passed since I first saw this band ironically enough at another Birkenhead venue at what was not a very auspicious gig. To say that they have grown in stature throughout ever since is an understatement and Tony’s part in that development has been crucial. A band is an organic thing and Face Value continue to grow, develop and change and one thing is sure, Tony’s legacy will continue to grow as long as the band continues along the path it is on at present - thanks for so many brilliant nights Tony, good luck with whatever your future holds and thanks again to the rest of the band for yet another amazing night - this happy fan felt very old!