Genesis review – Most unlikely rock stars have a blast | Genesis

In a time when no artist really seems to be retiring – as the recent Soft Cell example shows, heavily promoted farewell gigs can lead to new albums and new albums can lead to other live shows. – there is a real sense of purpose about Genesis’ Covid- delayed The Last Domino? to visit. Keyboardist Tony Banks may have faked questions about the band’s future, but frontman Phil Collins didn’t. This is, he said, of course, his steadfastness underscored by the audience’s apparent shock at his visible fragility in interviews to promote the shows: judging by some of the reactions to his recent appearance on BBC Breakfast. , you would have thought they had rolled it to the screen connected to a survival machine.

In truth, anyone interested knows that Collins has been in poor health for years: he performed seated and walked with a stick on a solo tour in 2016. Perhaps the expressions of surprise have something to do with the sound. the strength of Collins’ image in the 1980s in the public consciousness. Tonight presents a 1986 series of Invisible Touch hits, which catapulted Genesis to such ubiquity that they became not only hugely famous but iconic of an era in ways they perhaps didn’t have predicted – in Bret Easton Ellis ‘vicious satire on’ 80s consumerism, American Psycho is the favorite band of yuppie serial killer Patrick Bateman. Collins weaves his way through the title track, adding the bitter divorced energy that has become a hallmark of his early solo career; Tonight Tonight Tonight looks a lot darker and more atmospheric than when it never came out of MTV.

Mike Rutherford, Phil Collins and Tony Banks. Photography: Bav Media

His disturbing character is amplified by the company he keeps. The setlist offers as much of the Peter Gabriel era as it does the Patrick Bateman years – Selling England By the Pound from 1973 is as well represented as Invisible Touch – which sometimes makes dramatic musical leaps: it’s a hairpin bend which raises eyebrows between the brilliance of No Son of Mine and the gnarled complexities of Firth of Fifth. But the show leans most strongly towards the period of Genesis’ career that lurks between them, when the band existed in a space between progressive rock and more mainstream concerns: the synth sounds brighter and more brash, the songs more downright melodic, but the very British strangeness that characterized Genesis in the early ’70s has not been completely erased. The result was some of the strangest Top 10 singles of the era: Turn It on Again dives despite being in four different time signatures; Mama – a song about this reliable hit subject, a teenage girl who develops an Oedipal fixation on a middle-aged sex worker – remains genuinely creepy almost 40 years later. Or maybe even more spooky: Collins performs the song’s midsection of bottomlit grunts and mocking laughter lit from below in red, a staging that deliberately turns his weathered face into a sight that might haunt you in the early hours of the morning. .

This isn’t the only time the show refers to his health, although it’s usually played for a laugh: he teases when I Can’t Dance reaches the limit of having “a perfect body with a perfect face.” “; instead of the complex and long drum duets he used to play with Chester Thompson, he sadly bangs his elbow and forehead with a tambourine during I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe), beckoning to hammily applause afterwards. More poignantly, there are times when Collins seems to get lost in the music: glancing down at the drums, where his son Nic replaces him, he begins to mimic the drum parts he can no longer play.

But, for the most part, the atmosphere is not so moving as it is festive. Collins is awfully funny between songs, and no matter what else has happened to him, his voice still rings loud; a gentleman of a certain age is so moved by the first chords of That’s All that he jumps to his feet and starts dancing the aisles, filming himself for posterity on his phone, before the ushers firmly lead him back to its place. And the story the show effectively tells is worth remembering: that of a group that seemed deeply implausible candidates for global ubiquity, but achieved it nonetheless.

At Utilita Arena, Birmingham, tonight and tomorrow, then on tour.

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