This was a bit of a landmark gig for me – not only was it my first gig in 562 days, but it was my first attendance at a live music event since that fabled “freedom day” back in July.
My… “fear” is too strong a word, so let’s go with “reluctance”… to spend any significant length of time inside crowded places meant that I had already, for various reasons, dipped out of one gig that I had a ticket for and not even thought about going to at least two others (both essentially Prog, both local) that, in previous years I wouldn’t have thought twice about. However, not only are Genesis my all-time favourite band but I had had a ticket for this gig – or, at least, the original gig – for over a year and, given it cost me the best part of £100, the Yorkshireman in me didn’t want to waste the money. So, I gritted my teeth and went along, posting on social media the day before that I didn’t know how being there would make me feel and hoping I wouldn’t feel the same way as I had been doing in the limited amount of time I have spent inside with crowds (a few minutes under the stand at Elland Road as I go to my seat and after the matches).
Despite my determination, I almost gave up on getting into the venue. When I arrived, queues had formed and were only getting longer. Security staff were making sure that everybody knew to have tickets and Covid vaccination passports ready for viewing. I had anticipated this, with the venue’s website indicating they may ask for the passports. What I hadn’t anticipated was that my phone didn’t seem to want me to have both ticket and passport available at the same time. To shorten a long story, after about twenty minutes that felt much longer and having left the queue twice, I wandered up to the first “checkpoint” with just my ticket showing. Three checkpoints later and I was in. Nobody asked for my passport and, as far as I could see, nobody asked for anybody’s passport.
Once inside I made for the merchandise – I like a nice tour t-shirt – but the queues were so long and slow moving, I decided to go to my seat and re-try after the gig. Skipping to the end of the evening, I was disappointed as, being so far towards one end of the venue, I was in a part of the crowd that was “encouraged” to leave via a rather drab staircase exit that looked more like a service entrance/exit than the nicely designed main staircases, presumably to avoid large numbers congregating in the centre of the venue. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to make do with my We Can’t Dance tour t-shirt, for however long it manages to last. Sadly my Invisible Touch version disappeared some years ago.
But, nobody reads this blog (if anybody reads this blog) for my lack of merchandise or technology travails, so who was the gig itself?
Well, it may not be the best Genesis gig I’ve been to (and I’ve not been to as many as some), but it was probably the most poignant. Unfortunately we were all too aware of Phil Collins’ deteriorating health but when, after the instrumental opening of Behind The Lines and Duke’s End, he joined in with Turn It On Again, my first thought that this was going to be a slightly sad affair. The vocals weren’t great and the way he sat gave the impression that he was somehow “scrunched up” bodily. In short, a shadow of his former self. Mama showed his less-than-robust vocals even more, although admittedly not as much as I feared. To his credit, though, as the set continued he seemed to liven up, perhaps feeding on the atmosphere being generated by the crowd, who were cheering the start and end of every song. Collins may have been almost immobile, but he still led the audience in our participation sections, perhaps with less gusto than on previous tours on his part, but certainly no less on ours. In my limited experience, the “Domino Effect” section always gets a decent response and tonight was no exception. There was a slight hiccup during That’s All, which opened a mid-set, three song acoustic section, when Collins appeared to forget the words, but his cheeky-chappy persona was seen in brief spells throughout the evening, both as he responded to good-natured heckling and, most notably, as he introduced the band, noting that, without Tony Banks, “We would have to find somebody else.”
As to the rest of the core trio, mostly what you would expect – Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks didn’t speak at all, except when Rutherford introduced Collins with, “And, centre stage, Mr Phil Collins.” But both seem evergreen and it always amazes me that musicians of, let’s say, advancing years can still so effortlessly play the complex music they are known for. Joining them was long-standing touring guitarist Daryl Stuermer a man who, “knows our songs better than we do,” according to Collins. With the latter now no longer to properly hold a drumstick, let alone use a pair as intended, the kit was being hit by son Nic, perhaps a less show-y drummer than his Dad, with, I think, a smaller kit – and no drum solo. I used to like those, especially when Collins and Chester Thompson played against/off each other – but all the memorable backing was there, including the pounding beat of Second Home By The Sea. In another slightly sad note, Collins senior could occasionally be seen air-drumming along during some sections. There was also a couple of guys towards the back of the stage on additional percussion and helping out with vocals – the first time, I think, that Genesis have made use of backing singers beyond those in the crowd who are keen to sing along (myself included – I must apologise to anybody sitting near me…) Unfortunately, I can’t remember their names and kind find any references to them online.
And the set? Well, it was mostly familiar from recent tours and leaned mostly towards the oft-maligned “popular” period. Oft-maligned, that is, except by me (and, admittedly, more than a few other fans). I think the first three Genesis albums I heard were, in no particular order, Foxtrot, And Then There Were Three and Genesis, with the latter being the first on I bought new, on release. Those three remain my favourite albums, but I like most of the modern ones – after all, for every catchy (or cheesy) chart-botherer, there’s a long-form epic; for every That’s All, there’s a Home By The Sea; for every Invisible Touch, there’s a Domino; for every Jesus He Knows Me, there’s a Driving The Last Spike. That latter pairing didn’t appear in the set – a shame as I love Driving The Last Spike – but are used for illustrative purposes only. But fans of the earlier material – those that aren’t boycotting the tour because of the fact that Genesis became popular, vowing to only see Steve Hackett in concert – were almost equally served, with appearances from The Cinema Show, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe), The Carpet Crawlers and sections of Dancing With The Moonlit Knight and Firth Of Forth. No set list is going to please everybody, but I think this one will have made most fans happy. Two and a half hours of Genesis music being played by Genesis – what’s not to like?
A final note… somehow, the lyrics to That’s All and Fading Lights took on an added emotional resonance tonight given comments in the build-up to the tour that Genesis wouldn’t exist as a band beyond this year. This is almost certainly the last time I will get to see Genesis live, although there’s still a chance I’ll see Mike Rutherford again – yes, as well as being a fan of the popular era of Genesis, I also like the “pop” of Mike and the Mechanics. It’s a shame because they are, as I said, my all-time favourite band. And yet, I had convinced myself years ago that I wouldn’t see them live again, so this gig was a much-welcome bonus and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world (unless, of course, my nearly useless phone had meant I couldn’t get in…) Hopefully, being there will also have kick-started my gig-going again.