Something magical occurs when a particular song or album brings chills to one’s self. As a musician myself (a drummer, more specifically), the next logical question that pops up is, “Man, that was brilliant! But how the heck are they gonna pull that off live?” To me, being on stage and playing live is where the most magic lives. You’re in the moment with the music. Chances are you’ll flub a note here and there, but if you did everything right, the whole experience will be worth it.
Exhibit A: Genesis.
I’ve gobbled up all of their albums from From Genesis to Revelation to Calling All Stations. I’m in the Peter Gabriel camp AND the Phil Collins camp AND the Ray Wilson camp. I’ve enjoyed the extended set pieces, I’ve enjoyed the hit singles, I’ve enjoyed the drumming.
But I’ve especially enjoyed Genesis’ live albums. Check out the raw energy recorded on 1972’s Live, from the opening Mellotron section of “Watcher of the Skies” to the propulsive nature of “The Knife.” Seconds Out from 1977 holds a dear place in my heart. It was the first album where we heard Collins singing lead on Gabriel’s material, but it also featured Chester Thompson at the drums. I played that cassette in high school endlessly, if only to get the drum parts down.
Sadly, I never got the chance to see Genesis live, apart from VHS tapes and DVDs. I did catch Collins during his First Final Farewell Tour in 2004, but that was his solo career. Would I ever see Genesis in person?
On April 4 at the Plaza Live in Orlando, I did, after a fashion.
Steve Hackett, the band’s guitarist from 1971’s Nursery Cryme to 1976’s Wind and Wuthering, has been taking his band out on the road for his Genesis Revisited world tour. Thank the Giant Hogweed he was coming to Florida. My wife and I snagged up tickets a while back, and soon we were off on the 408.
The Plaza Live was a lot smaller than I imagined, which made the evening a bit more intimate. We secured our seats in the sixth row in the left section and patiently waited for the show to begin.
The lights soon went dark, the crowd roared, and the band walked onto the stage. Hackett played a familiar four-note progression, leading into the epic “Dance on a Volcano.” (I apologize if this wasn’t the first song; I remember what songs they played, but I didn’t write them down in order. I was just soaking it all in)
For the next two and a half hours, Hackett and company (Nad Sylvan on vocals; Rob Townsend on sax, flute, and percussion; Roger King on keyboards; Nick Beggs on bass; and Gary O’Toole on drums and vocals) kept my goosebumps busy, playing some of my favorite Genesis tunes — “Squonk.” “The Lamia.” “The Knife.” “Firth of Fifth.” “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight.” “Supper’s Ready.”
The musicianship of the band was beyond category. The guys stayed true to the original songs but added a few flourishes of their own (they put a slightly different spin on the classic “I Know What I Like”). Seeing Hackett’s guitar prowess in person was something to behold. At times, watching him play I kept thinking, “Oh, that’s how they did that!” Playing Collins’ drum parts can be a challenge, but O’Toole was more than up for it. Townsend’s soprano sax filled in for Tony Banks’ keyboard melodies at times, and he took on Gabriel’s flute parts. King and his arsenal of keyboards conjured up the majesty and the madness of Banks’ parts. Sylvan deftly brought a theatrical touch to Gabriel’s vocals, while equally bringing Collins’ own singing style to life.
The crowd ate it all up, giving the band standing ovations throughout the night. Some were air-drumming along with O’Toole. When Hackett brought out his acoustic guitar to play “Horizons,” the audience fell silent. Try doing that at a Justin Bieber concert.
I never thought I would be able to see Genesis live in my lifetime. Thanks to Hackett, even if Genesis doesn’t come back to play live, his show will work just fine.