A very good account of this concert by Mrs. Charone that should please fans of the Gabriel-era Genesis.
Can you see the rael me?
By Barbara Charone
Michael Rutherford stretches, staring out the hotel room window, gazing out on the greater Bristol nightscape, all aglow in motorway yellows and ominous blacks. “It could be North Carolina,” he sighs glancing simultaneously at the sterile Holiday Inn room behind him and the urban darkness ahead. It could also be Birmingham or Paris with its unreal Eiffel Tower reflecting in the plate glass. It could even be Italy or Portugal. It could be anywhere.
Night-time stretches from here to eternity, finally returning back to Britain, just as Genesis have done, coming home after a strenuous six month tour of several continents and many countries, all of it a testimony to the durability and strength of their latest work, `The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway`.
Tonight`s location is Bristol, the venue Colston Hall. Everybody is there. Rael clutches his imaginary weapon, an aerosol spray can, rubs the dirt into his scruffy white T-shirt, rolls up the cuffs of his blue blue jeans, feels the leather of his jacket, and peers out at this evening`s intruders. There`s Lenny Bruce, Marshal McLuhan, Groucho Marx, Evel Knievel, friends, relatives, strangers and lots of everyday people, all of them shut off from the outside as they journey into the world of fantasy.
While the collective audience sit in awesome anticipation, the band arrive in their respected Range-Rovers, a mode of travel adopted for the British tour which pleases everyone. Six months on the road with a show which has long since felt new to them, and keyboard man Tony Banks still chats with drummer Phil Collins about smoothing out tempo changes in the exercise in aggression `Evil Jam`. Ten minutes before showtime, bassist Rutherford and guitarist Steve Hackett talk about improving `The Musical Box`. Six months on the road certainly hasn`t tempered musical integrity.
The dressing room could only belong to Genesis with its colourful assortment of nuts, raisins, Meusli, cheese, bread, immature avacados that only look ripe, apple juice, coke (cola) and various bottles of spirits. But don`t go thinking what cosmic health fanatics they are, hung up on be-yourself lyrics and pedantic preachings. While theoretically closer to groups like Yes, Floyd, Crimson and ELP in progressive technology, they still retain strong leanings towards rock with rhythms that could only be described as funky.
Five minutes before showtime Peter Gabriel enters the room, looking for a coffee, not that he needs added caffeine energy, dressed up as Rael with make-up outlining this street fighting kid`s fantasies. Throwing mock punches right and left, Gabriel primes himself for the macho urban posture Rael adopts in the first half of the show. Thirty seconds before showtime, two roadies furiously break up large blocks of ice, dry ice fumes floating onstage in time for Tony Banks to kick off the piano rumblings that sound like waterfalls to signal the start of the show. The crowd cheers victoriously. Having not seen Genesis for too long a time, they are ready.
“This is better than last time,” one fan proclaimed to his mate halfway through the third number of the evening, `Broadway Melody of 1974` as Groucho Marx and friends made their slide screen entrance. “Better than last time?” his mate asked in disbelief. “Yeah,” he sighed with an air of superiority as the Marx brothers left the screen replaced by James Dean, “this is the best”.
With six month`s maturity, the show runs like well oiled machinery allowed the freedom to fluctuate or halt at an appropriate bumps and grinds. Tonight`s lot are quietly fanatical, sitting in rapt attention, caught up in the fantasy. This low-key behaviour robs the production of some of the more eclectic magic that ran up the spine at last month`s Paris show. Getting off to a late start, the band begin to hit stride on `Evil Jam`. By the time they reach the tense climax, those currents are finally jumping up the back-bone, making you shiver.
With repeated listenings and live viewings, different songs and segments alternate as favourites. Yet the overall strength of the piece never weakens. Gabriel`s characterisation of Rael has grown from strength to strength as he becomes more and more Rael-like, picking up Rael`s every gesture and nuance, affecting the personality en total.
Rael`s mental and physical tortures that befall him in the second half are reminiscent of those epic myth-like endurance tests in `The Odyssey`. The `Slipperman` costume that you`ve seen all the gruesome photos of, heralds musical changes and dance steps that are a sophisticated rendition of the Willow Farm segment from `Supper`s Ready`.
The biggest change however in the visual performance is Peter`s in-between sides introductions. Gone are the references to Rael which made the listener assume that possibly much of Rael was Peter. Now he simply says `There I was strolling down 22nd Street`. Lightweight intros gently destroy illusions of grandeur, letting us know there are no pretensions.
The band`s musical mastery still wends its way towards perfection. Banks and Hackett now work together, forming an integral part of the musical tension with their cleverly weaved guitar / keyboard interplays, often preventing the listener from deciphering which is which. Rutherford adds punch to the rhythm on bass, and sophistication to lead lines on guitar. While Phil Collins, as always, continues proving that he still is the best drummer working in rock today as well as a fine harmony singer.
“Think about it,” the same fan was saying to the same friend when the final notes of `Lamb Lies Down On Broadway` were still ringing as the audience stood clapping for an encore, “They`re so much better than the Pink Floyd.”