I’m conflicted writing this. I love the band Genesis, but would I have plunked down major cash to see the band at this stage of their career? They did not have a concert scheduled anywhere near me, so the opportunity to see them was nil.
After a 14-year hiatus from touring, Genesis regrouped to hit the road perhaps one more time. This version of the band (Phil Collins-Tony Banks-Mike Rutherford) have not released any new music since 1991. Collins, who went solo, enjoying superstar status, eventually retired because of various physical issues. A few years ago, Collins unretired and launched his own world tour, although he was confined to a chair on stage to sing. His drum kit was turned over to his son Nic, who would be the Genesis drummer on this tour.
Collins, along with Banks and Rutherford, decided to mount perhaps one last tour. All are in heir early 70s. Then Covid-19 hit and tour plans were put on hold. Earlier this year, the tour began with concerts in the U.K. and North America.
For those of us not in concert range, there are a couple of ways we can enjoy the group. First, we can purchase the two-disc set of greatest hits. This is a new collection of old hits, in case you do not have the original albums or any of the previous greatest hits packages. When you tour it is usually to promote a new product. In this case, new, but not really new. Interestingly, the set includes material from the Gabriel and Hackett eras.
Second, the band produced an hour-long video about preparing for their 2021-2022 tour, appropriately called, The Last Domino? The video includes interviews about the reunion, what each of them have been up to in recent years, and footage of their rehearsals from initial run-throughs of songs, to stage, lighting and video of how the actual concert will look and sound.
The elephant in the room is Collins’ physical condition, both his body and his voice. This is not the Collins of their grand days, or even of 13 years ago. He is frail and tentative. His voice is narrow and does not have the power of old. Collins looks older than his 70 years. Banks and Rutherford, both 71, are more nimble and spry.
At the early rehearsals, it is evident that Collins’ voice is weak. Aware of it, the band has hired two backup vocalists to help bolster Collins’ singing. Is it sad to see Phil Collins reduced to this state? Yes. During the video, clips of the band’s performances and videos from their prime, are interspersed with current interviews and rehearsals. So, very quickly, the age issue is out there. They are not pretending to be 30 years younger.
Musically, the band sounds as good as it ever did. Banks and Rutherford are still at the top of their game. Darryl Stuermer is back on guitar/bass, he was performed with Genesis since that late 1970s and knows the Genesis songbook front to back. It is amazing the layers of sound these three can produce. The background singers are good, they take the pressure off of Collins, who sits center stage. Nic Collins is not Phil Collins or longtime Genesis tour drummer Chester Thompson. The younger Collins performs adequately, copying the style of his predecessors. The musical performance was always the strength of Genesis, even in the style-conscious Peter Gabriel days. Genesis uses the best sound production technology available. Hand it to Genesis to put some of the ticket price squarely in the production and it shows.
The technology also applies to the visual concept of the show. Mood and atmosphere have always been vital to Genesis music. The synchronization and interplay of the lighting is highly complex as well as the mixture of background video and visual display screens. In the 2020s, grand theatrical visuals are required of any top level concert.
Whatever the band may have lost due to age and physical wear, they make up for in sound and visual display. The hourlong video ends with the band locking in their stage lighting and visual programming. The look is quite impressive, but that has always been a strength of Genesis touring. That’s not only my opinion, the reviews of their U.S. concerts have been quite positive, praising the performances and blending of different eras of music into a two-plus hour trip through both progressive rock and radio hits.
Would I have spent the cash if they had come close by? I’m glad not to have been forced to decide.